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TSA reboots flight attendant self-defense programs amid spike in unruly, violent passengers

Flight attendant participates in T-S-A self defense training class
Posted at 10:31 PM, Oct 19, 2021

DENVER (KMGH) — A nondescript TSA field office for the Denver International Airport is tucked away in an equally nondescript neighborhood somewhere in Denver.

It is designed that way so flight marshals can plan and teach new strategies to subdue threats at 30,000 feet. The building is outfitted with a matted gymnasium and a makeshift airline fuselage to train the air marshals — considered a last line of defense against violent attackers.

However, the TSA has recently revamped similar training for what is often considered an airline's first line of defense: its flight attendants.

The courses, which they reopened in July, teach flight attendants how to disarm and defend themselves against violent passengers.

"It's designed to provide a basic self-defense training for airline crew members and give them more confidence," said Tamra Goldsmith, the supervisory air marshal for the TSA Denver field office. "The self-defense training will help give them the proper mindset that they can use to help protect themselves to do their job to take care of other passengers around them on their flights."

The TSA has held more than 50 similar seminars across the country this year. The class was offered before COVID-19, but it has a renewed purpose now with threats to flight attendants and violent altercations instigated by angry passengers on flights spiking. According to the FAA, there have been more than 4,724 reported incidents of unruly passengers on planes this year, and several of them have been violent.

The FAA has also investigated more than 882 incidents of violence on planes in 2021. In 2019, that number was 146.

"This could be a real situation," said Sherry, a flight attendant who did not share her last name for privacy reasons. "The moment I feel threatened if somebody was to really get in my face... and we have to do whatever we have to to protect ourselves at that point."

This story was originally reported by Sloan Dickey on