Union boss raises possibility of arming flight attendants with tasers following bad passenger behaviour

A union boss in the US has said a discussion about whether flight attendants should be issued with tasers needs to happen again.

Sara Nelson, head of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) union, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants across 19 airlines, was speaking on CNN about the recent case of a United Airlines passenger who assaulted a flight attendant, tampered with an emergency exit, and threatened to “kill every man on this plane”.

When asked what resources flight attendants had to manage conflict in the air, she said: “There has been a lot of discussion about whether flight attendants should have tasers. I think we need to look at that discussion again.

“And flight attendants need to be given the training we were supposed to have right after 9/11, which is crew member self-defence training.”

Ms Nelson also called for the introduction of a national banned passenger list.

While individual airlines have their own lists of passengers prohibited from flying, this is not joined up across different carriers, meaning a potentially dangerous passenger could simply opt to fly with another provider.

She added that while passenger numbers have continued to increase, cuts to staffing have made flight attendants’ jobs more difficult.

“We have not only been aviation’s first responders, responding to emergencies and the health of passengers on board but, since 9/11, we’ve also been aviation’s last line of defence.

“And with the rise of violent events on our planes, it is time to renew this discussion about making sure this is a mandatory part of our training, that there is a passenger ban list across the industry that the federal government controls, that includes a due process so we’re not violating people’s civil liberties, and you have a way to get off if you’re improving your behaviour and getting better.

“But this can be managed by the federal government and shared with the industry so we’re not allowing these people back onto our planes,” she added.

“Those are severe consequences we need to have to serve as deterrents and when these events happen onboard, we have to have enough resources to respond.”

A statement released by AFA-CWA confirmed that the Department of Justice had charged Francisco Severo Torres, 33, from Boston, in relation to the incident onboard United flight 2609.

“Our union is proud of the crew of United Flight 2609 and relieved that no one sustained life-threatening physical injuries.

“Violence has no place anywhere and certainly not in a closed cabin flying several miles in the air. Aviation’s first responders are charged with the safety of everyone onboard.

“When incidents like this happen, it not only risks the safety of the crew involved, it takes away from flight attendants’ ability to respond to medical, safety, or security emergencies. Bottom line: it puts everyone at risk and there’s zero tolerance for that.

“This is another example of the urgent need for a national banned disruptive passenger list. We call on Congress to pass the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act.”

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