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Crewed Talk

Should Flight Attendants Have Tasers?

Should Flight Attendants Have Tasers?
Amanda Pleva

Last week, we heard the tale of a Korean Air flight from Hanoi to Seoul that had all the elements of a fantastic B-movie.

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!

It had celebrity cameos: Who steps in to save the day but 80s soft rocker and mom crush Richard Marx!It had romance: Marx gets backup from none other than loyal wife and former 90s MTV VJ Daisy Fuentes (we can also count this as a plot twist, because who knew?!) and they, along with the crew, try for hours to keep the man restrained until he could be handed off to authorities on the ground!

When Marx and Fuentes were interviewed after the flight, the couple were upset that the crew seemed to be inadequately trained for such situations and that the one flight attendant armed with a taser did not fire it at the man as he kept escaping and running through the cabin.

Wait – she hadn’t fired her what??

Korean Air has armed their crews with tasers for years outside North America, but in 2004 the airline was quietly granted TSA approval to carry them on certain flights into the US. Some American carriers also looked into non-lethal weapons for cabin use on flights soon after 9/11, but abandoned the move for reasons including financial problems and the implementation of other initiatives such as the Air Marshal and Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) programs, the latter of which allows pilots to carry a firearm in the cockpit if they opt to and only after receiving approval and stringent training. The FFDO program is only for defending the flight deck against potential hijack, however – not to break up scuffles in the cabin.

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.

[Photo: Shutterstock]
View Comments (9)


  1. Asiaflyguy

    December 27, 2016 at 12:19 pm


    The airlines should first correct the issues they have control over that contribute to some of this air rage by passengers. overcrowded planes, unacceptable seat comfort (too close together), fees upon fees charges for this that and the other, no room for bags once on board, the list goes on and each passenger experiences each one of them. Sprinkle in a bit of Alcohol and meet the disgruntled passenger

    I for one would not want to be in the seat next to the passenger who is the target of a taser by a FA. If security in-flight is that worrisome, then then let the airlines add more air marshals. We don;t need armed FA’s in my opinion

  2. KRSW

    December 27, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Only problem — tasers *ARE* lethal weapons, especially when used on someone who is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Close proximity to other pax means other passengers will likely get struck instead of the intended suspect.

    Short of someone slashing/beheading people in the back, there isn’t anything going on back there which is urgent enough to justify tasers. In a sheer numbers, there are far more pax who are willing to beat the living daylights out of the suspect assist flight crews with anyone who acts up.

  3. abmj-jr

    December 27, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    As a retired LEO, I have always been prepared and willing to assist the crew if necessary. I might have to reconsider that if a taser was floating around in the hands of a frightened and untrained crew member. Any weapons, lethal or not, on an aircraft must be the subject of EXTENSIVE training and practice. And that includes armed fight deck officers. Any less and they become more of a threat than the misbehaving individual.

  4. SarcasticMisanthrope

    December 28, 2016 at 5:42 am

    No, if a F/A has a bad day they just might zap someone out of spite or anger.

  5. wh6cto

    December 28, 2016 at 7:01 am

    “The man repeatedly escapes restraints…” Wouldn’t it be easier to improve the restraints, than to routinely use tasers?
    I also wonder about the survivability of electronics in the aircraft when subjected to 50,000 volts. Sounds like a really bad idea.

  6. FlyingNone

    December 28, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    ….and in the event of a struggle and the taser falls into the hands of the crazy passenger ? What could go wrong ?

  7. UncleDude

    December 29, 2016 at 2:09 am

    How difficult would it be a 6ft10 Terrorist to get control of a Taserl from a 5ft2 FA. With Tasers you have no fear of them Damaging the Aircraft Fuselage.

  8. FlyingUnderTheRadar

    December 29, 2016 at 11:20 am

    IMHO, the real issue after the initial incident was the lack of proper restraints. The perp should have been in hand cuffs – not zip ties. Further, instead of rope, they should’ve duct tape the perp to seat. That has been done before.

  9. nomad420

    December 30, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Answer is one word….. NO!!! I fell uncomfortable around them when they holding a coffee pot!

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