March 06, 2010

Flight attendants union wants combat training

The labor group is pushing for new rules to strengthen in-cabin security, including hand-to-hand combat instruction, personal radios and standardized size limits for carry-on luggage.

By Hugo Martín

The federal government has made clear its strategy for cracking down on potential terrorist attacks in airplanes: more sophisticated scanners and increased scrutiny of passengers at crowded airports.

But now the nation's flight attendants say the government needs to ratchet up security measures inside airplanes.

The Assn. of Flight Attendants has been lobbying Congress for the last month or so to adopt its strategy for stronger counter-terrorism measures. The group hopes that lawmakers will include money to put some of their ideas into action under an upcoming funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The group, which represents more than 55,000 attendants at 20 airlines, wants to implement a four-point plan:
  • Institute mandatory hand-to-hand combat training for all crew members.

  • Equip flight attendants with portable communications devices so they can speak to the pilots during emergencies.

  • Standardize the size of carry-on luggage so that flight attendants can look for suspicious passengers instead of struggling with oversized bags.

  • Shut down onboard wireless Internet during high-threat periods to prevent terrorists from communicating with collaborators on the ground.