Don’t mess with airline crew members who graduate TSA’s self-defense class

Last week we joined a group of airline crew members for a four-hour self-defense class taught by the Transportation Security Administration’s Federal Air Marshals.

TSA has been offering these classes since at least 2015 but put the courses on hold during the height of the pandemic. Now, given the uptick in unruly passengers and the viciousness some passengers have been unleashing on flight attendants, TSA has brought the classes back. Since June, more than 50 free classes have been held around the country.

You can read our story about what goes on in these classes on The Point Guy site, but we wanted to share some bonus photos and observations here too.

The courses are available in two dozen cities to any active crewmember working for a domestic airline. While the courses are free, those taking the courses must do so on their own time. Airlines offer some self-defense training as part of their training, but some flight attendants we spoke with would like the more advanced TSA self-defense course to be on paid time.

While there are Federal Air Marshals on many domestic flights, they are not on all of them. And, air marshal presence or not, flight attendants are the ones who must first deal with unruly and aggressive passengers. Some flight attendants told us they signed up for the self-defense class because they wanted new tools to deal with the behavior they’ve been witnessing, hearing about, and could soon be coming their way.

Flight attendants don’t just feel vulnerable in the air. Some crew members we spoke with during the self-defense class said they also wanted to be prepared to defend themselves when on the ground. We heard about flight attendants who worry about being attacked in hotel hallways and while walking through parking garages or waiting for shuttle vans.

The crewmembers in the TSA self-defense class we observed learned basic self-defense skills using their personal weapons: fists, palms, the edge of their hands, forearms, elbows, legs, feet, and knees. And, after four hours, they were pretty good at, and confident about, using these skills, if necessary.

As more airline crew members get the TSA training and go on to take more advanced self-defense courses on their own, we hope word gets around that it is a bad idea to try to tangle with an airline crew member. Especially one who has graduated from the TSA’s self-defense course.

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