Flight attendants are trying to even the odds of ending their shifts in one piece by taking self-defense classes. The uptick in in-flight violence by passengers has made airliner cabins a potentially perilous place to work and the focused curriculum of the classes, taught by federal Marshals, is specifically aimed at handling problem passengers in those close quarters. “We are finding that our jobs are harder than ever,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told CNN. “Conflict is rising very quickly. When we can’t get to that and diffuse that because we have so much going on … problems can become big very quickly.”
Among those taking the training was Donna O’Neil, a safety demo veteran of 47 years who was practicing serving up an elbow smash should the occasion arise. “I don’t ever want to use any of this,” O’Neil told CNN. “But if I had to, I certainly feel much more confident.” Only a fraction of flights have air marshals on board and Noel Curtin, a supervisor for the service, said the flight crew is the line of defense against in-flight violence. “There’s no backup at 30,000 feet,” Curtin said.