It had action: A passenger goes berserk, punching, spitting on and pushing crew and other passengers! (Reportedly due to intoxication…from two shots of whiskey?)
It had suspense: The flight carries on for FOUR HOURS as the man repeatedly escapes restraints and thwarts attempts to subdue him!
Wait – she hadn’t fired her what??
The shockwave among US-based flight attendants I know upon hearing of Korean Air’s taser policy was huge. Some were in favor of the idea being adopted throughout the industry, but most were horrified at the thought. Even those who leaned toward the idea of having tasers for crew use admitted that the thought of some of our coworkers being armed is terrifying. Having access to a non-lethal weapon could potentially take down an attacker, but there is too great a danger in the weapon being misfired, used with poor judgment or turned against crew or passengers. No airlines hire flight attendants for their combat skills or marksmanship.
While this situation was dangerous, if the out-of-control passenger had gotten a hold of the obviously frightened flight attendant’s weapon (which did not look like a difficult task), the man would have been nearly impossible to subdue. And if the man had more sinister intentions than just to slap around his neighbors, I might be writing a completely different article.
I’m not entirely sure why the flight didn’t divert to bid the problem passenger adieu instead of continuing on for hours, but the flight landed safely in Seoul with only minor injuries just the same. Would the incident have gone differently if the crew were confident enough with the weapon to fire it? It’s hard to say. Marx took Korean Air to task in the handling of the incident, calling for better crew training and stating that airline crews should be able to handle dangerous passengers without help. While I absolutely agree that all airlines can benefit from enhanced security and self-defense training, the idea that we should not disturb passengers’ viewing of Finding Dory as we struggle out of a headlock is absolutely ludicrous. Of all the post-9/11 lessons we have learned, passenger involvement is key when we find ourselves in threatening situations that are not easily contained. Overwhelming an attacker in number and strength is much more effective than a taser or other weapon on board. In this case, had the flight attendant been able to fire at the unruly passenger, the result would almost definitely have been the same – the help of other passengers would have still been required. And the threat of the weapon finding its way into the wrong hands is too great a risk to take.
The skies are getting rougher in regard to passenger disturbances, and no one can argue that the airlines should look to this and other incidents in trying to respond to lapses in security procedures and training. But arming crews will not make the skies safer, and this situation could have been something much different than the hilariously weird water cooler talk it currently is. We will be ‘Right Here Waiting’ for Korean Air’s response to the incident going forward, but hopefully we won’t see more airlines bringing weapons into the cabin.