TSA, flight attendants prepared with self-defense training for unruly passengers during holiday travel

The holiday travel season is underway and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says a little more than two million passengers were screened on Dec. 16 alone, compared to nearly $850,000 people last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel officials continue to ask travelers to mask up, but flight crews are preparing for those so-called "unruly passengers."

A majority of unruly passenger incidents are mask-related, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Meaning the main issue crew members are facing is over a face covering, and the travel season is only ramping up.

TSA expects 21 million people to travel domestically and overseas this holiday season, which is a big increase from last year at this time.

"Crowded and lines and inconveniences," says Leah Blackman about what she anticipates this holiday season.

With way more people in the air, could we see more travelers breaking the rules?

"You have to think about the other person, about your fellow human," says Bruce Arter, who's traveling through Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport.

Some travelers may not agree – as we've seen in viral videos across the country. Punches, swinging, screaming and pointing.

"But I've heard of and seen some news clips of people acting irate and belligerent and attitudes and impatient," Blackman said.

There have been 5,664 unruly passenger incidents reported by airline crews in 2021 as of Dec. 14, the FAA says. 4,072 are mask-related incidents and 1,030 investigations have been initiated.

TSA crews and flight attendants are even taking self-defense classes to prepare for physical situations – something Blackman calls an unfortunate reality

"If I'm a flight attendant then I shouldn't have to now take training to protect myself against unruly passengers," she said.

Passengers who engage in unruly behavior can be fined or prosecuted. The FAA can propose up to $37,000 per violation.

More information about the FAA's zero-tolerance policy for unruly passengers can be found here.

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