Restraining Unruly Passengers: an absence of industry-recognised best practice
There seems to be little in the way of international agreement as to how airlines should tackle the problem of unruly passengers once communication has failed. Given that the flight deck door must remain closed during any unruly passenger incident, in almost all circumstances it will be the flight attendants who have to physically intercede and who become the police officers in the skies, without access to qualified reinforcements. Whilst law enforcement officers are given weeks of training in the use of handcuffs, aircrew, who do not usually enter the profession with a security mindset, are provided with training that is measured in hours. The outcome however must be the same. Aaron Le Boutillier considers some of the issues surrounding restraint training and calls upon the industry to clarify what it expects its crewmembers to be able to achieve. Restrain from the front or the rear? Apply plastic handcuffs or metal handcuffs? And, whether or not to restrain an unruly passenger to the seat?
A person who endangers the safety of a flight must be restrained and airlines which prevaricate on taking measures to develop procedures, deploy equipment and train their staff to manage such situations really are tempting fate. Not only are they valuing the rights of an aggressive individual over the rights of all other souls on board, but they could also wind up in court for failing in their duty to protect crewmembers and passengers from assault. States who are signatories to the Tokyo Convention (which grants the Commander the authority to restrain an unruly passenger) should also be ensuring that the airlines under their jurisdiction are enabling aircrew to restrain individuals who pose a threat. That means removing any other laws that might prevent the use of restraint equipment on board aircraft and, thereafter, requiring training in their usage.