What Do Flight Attendants Do When Violent Incidents Take Place?

Business Insider spoke to flight attendants to learn about how they’re trained to handle violent incidents aboard a flight.

Viral videos occasionally showcase how airplanes can be a hotbed of anger. A recent video aboard a plane showed a woman screaming and cursing at her fellow passenger before assaulting him. People who don’t know each other (or know each other too well) being in close proximity for hours can be bad for tempers, but the cabin must remain safe and under control at all times for a safe flight.

According to one of the flight attendants Business Insider spoke to, every airport has a customer service representative who is trained in conflict resolution. These same representatives are also trained to deal with sensitive issues or remove passengers who are beyond reason. If a plane hasn’t taken off yet, dealing with violent situations is much simpler. If an incident occurs while the gate is open, a flight attendant would most likely notify the captain and agents at the gate that a passenger may have to be removed. If the incident is severe, the crew would most likely push for removal even if the situation calms down before departure. “The way she was yelling, cursing, hitting, and threatening, there’s basically no way it could be resolved to the point where she could be allowed to get back on the plane. We have levels of threats, and she was already at a level 2 by hitting people,” a flight attendant said about the woman in the viral video to BI.

In any situation, the key is deescalation. “If a situation like that occurred in the air, we’d usually try to separate the parties involved,” another flight attendant said. When an issue breaks out mid-flight, the flight attendants will typically ask the passengers involved to move. If that doesn’t work, they’ll explain what will happen if the belligerent passengers don’t comply. This usually means that the plane will have to land at the nearest airport, or that the passenger will be arrested when they land, or both. As a last resort, if the altercation becomes physical and can’t be deescalated, the crew will restrain the passenger.

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