It might come as a chock to many people, including the Stewardesses, but the fact remains that in today's Airline Industry, the Stewardess is the last line of defense!
In the 11th of September terrorist attacks, on the WTC and Pentagon, the first victims were the Stewardesses. Savagely attacked by the terrorist on their way to the cockpit's and tortured to pressure pilots, to comply with the terrorists demands.
More mundane, but daily occurrences in the International Airline Industry, is unruly passengers. Who endangers the safety of co-passengers and the aircraft due to mental disturbances, alcohol consumption, stress or disregard for airline regulations, such as remaining seated during takeoff and landing etc. or smoking in prohibited areas on smokeless flights. Stewardesses are expected to deal with these travails, as first responders and can if necessary call on the Pilots for help, if the situation is beyond their control. However, first the Stewardesses have to intervene and are often the victim, of verbal and physical abuse from the unruly passengers.
After the 9-11 attacks pilots; should show precaution before leaving the cockpit, to assist in calming or restraining unruly passengers. The incident could well be a diversion to get the pilots to open, the now locked cockpits, whereupon conspirators of the unruly passenger/s will attack to get access to the cockpit.
On the majority of flights, there are no Air Marshals, so problems have to be faced by the Stewardesses. Who either have deal with the matter on their own, or wait for the pilot or co-pilot to assist, or occasionally call upon the assistance from other passengers. As these problems, have been around for decades and will be in the future, it is simply necessary for the Stewardesses to receive training in Self-Defense and Arrest techniques. These skills should simply be part of the standard Stewardess training program, with regular retraining.
Stewardesses have not always just been service minded, multi language, pretty women; when the Icelandic Airline was originally established, all Stewardesses where former Nurses, as that was thought to be necessary, in order to deal with any medical emergencies. My opinion is that today, a similar concern is valid and that is that the Stewardesses, should be able to deal with current security threats as well. It would also be wise, to continue the current trend of adding more Stewards to the crews and preferable to the level of half of the crew.
To give the Stewardesses an extra advantage, a non-lethal weapon such as a mini stun-gun or expandable baton, could be issued and used together with handcuffs etc. CCTV should be installed, with cameras placed in strategic positions, could be supplemented with RF frequency pen-type cameras carried on the Stewardesses uniforms. Monitors should be place in all crew areas; this would give added security, not only to the Stewardesses but also to the pilots, who would be able to respond earlier, to a potential security threat from unruly passengers or terrorists.
Now, some will argue that training Stewardesses, to deal with terrorist incidents are wrong and the focus should be on passenger and baggage security screening. To those I will say yes, I fully agree, to the necessity of pre-screening of passengers and baggage and an increase in Airport security procedures is necessary. However, the current efforts are focused primarily, on simply throwing in more security personnel and making them federal employees, which in reality has done little to actually increase security. This is a fact that is evident by the many cases of persons carrying weapons onboard aircrafts anyway.
This fact has repeatedly been proven by security inspections, where security agents, have boarded aircrafts with weapons and explosives etc. There is also the fact, that the Airlines often have little control over the actual Airport security and close to no-control at foreign Airports. In many foreign airports the airlines simply have to rely on the local security and the occasional inspections, by official institutions such as the FAA etc.
There is also the real threat, of terrorist co-operators working within the Airline service industry, which has access to the Aircrafts and could place weapons or bombs onboard the Aircraft, to be used by the terrorists. And finally, the violent unruly passenger, will always be part of the environment the Stewardesses faces. Perhaps these incidents can be reduced, by enforcing higher penalties and prison terms on those who violate Airline regulations in any manner. But these procedures are going to take time and meanwhile the problem remains, in the hands of the Stewardesses; Our last line of defense!
Dan Sommer is the author of the SD Agent, a Surveillance Detection Manual, he has been part of the process of designing, implementing and training a SD team for a European Embassy. His 17 years security career started in 1986 and he has active experience from military, security, close protection, counter assault team and surveillance detection operations. Since 1994 the author has been writing training material’s for security companies and police departments. He has been instructing courses world-wide for security officers, bodyguards, police officers, counter assault teams and surveillance detection units. Dan currently acts as the International Director of the World Federation of Bodyguards and has a private business as a Security & Protection Consultant. His work can be viewed at his website http://www.DanSommer.Biz