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Airlines and regulators turn to eye-poking flight attendants and eye-popping fines amid sharp rise in unruly passenger incidents

Airlines and regulators turn to eye-poking flight attendants and eye-popping fines amid sharp rise in unruly passenger incidents

Frontier Airlines flight attendants study self-defense at a training in Denver in 2007.
Rick Wilking/Reuters




Airlines and federal regulators are scrambling to contain a sudden uptick in unruly passengers on planes.




The FAA has received 3,420 "unruly passenger" reports in 2021, and 3,000 weapons have been seized at airports.




Under zero-tolerance policy, fines are larger than ever, and some are pushing for federal prosecutions for in-flight assaults.




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In undisclosed locations near airports around the country this month, flight attendants are receiving training in aggressive self defense moves that are specially designed for close-quarters. Flight attendants learn the double-ear slap, the eye-poke, and the groin-kick. They learn tricks to swiftly disarm passengers with sharp weapons, and how to use items readily available aboard a plane for defense.The moves are designed to de-escalate and quickly subdue passengers because in the words of former trainer Scott Armstrong, "you don't want to get into a long, drawn-out fight."This is, as they say, not a drill. Just last week, the training was famously put to good use, when a female passenger on an American Airlines flight to North Carolina attacked and bit several flight attendants and tried to open the plane's door mid-flight.
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