Flight Attendants want combat training for additional security against Islamic terrorists

The Flight Attendants Union 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.

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.

“For better or for worse, once the cabin doors close, the flight attendants are the last line of defense,” said Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the association.
She pointed out that combat training for flight attendants is now voluntary, with employees who take it attending the lessons on their own time.

A portable communications system would have allowed flight attendants to talk with the pilots during the attempted attack on a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day, she added. On that flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, a Nigerian national allegedly tried to ignite an explosive hidden in his underwear.

The nation’s airlines have not agreed on a maximum size for carry-on luggage because the overhead bins vary in size according to airplane model. The group suggests the standard size be no bigger than 22 inches by 9 inches by 14 inches — the same limit already in place at American, Continental and Delta airlines. Virgin America, Southwest and Hawaiian airlines allow bigger carry-on bags.

As for shutting down the onboard Internet, she said the Transportation Security Administration would determine when the airlines are at a high risk for a terrorist attack.LA TIMES