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Homeland Security Bill Fails to Provide Adequate Protections

Date: November 14, 2002

Provisions for Mandatory Flight Attendant Self Defense Training Must be Required by TSA

WASHINGTON—The pending version of the Homeland Security Bill fails to protect the traveling public by significantly weakening provisions for mandatory self-defense training for all flight attendants.

The legislation makes flight attendant self-defense training voluntary by allowing them to opt out of the training and refuses to set a minimum number of training hours to ensure proficiency. This omission robs flight attendants of the vital job training that could allow them to save their own lives, the lives of their passengers and protect the cockpit in the case of another terrorist attack onboard an aircraft.

“A flight attendant cannot opt out of the training that prepares us to evacuate an aircraft or fight an in-flight fire, and security training shouldn’t be any different,” said Association of Flight Attendants International President Patricia Friend. “It’s a necessary part of our job that’s been deemed optional because Congress apparently believes that flight attendants shouldn’t be entrusted with the ability to defend themselves against an attacker.”

Like the current version of the Homeland Security Bill, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act passed last November failed to mandate industry-wide security training for cabin crew to defend against terrorists. Because of these loopholes, the airlines have managed to offer only the bare minimum -- in many cases just two or three hours of updated training -- and have made vital components, like self-defense, voluntary. In fact, some carriers have not started the new training at all.

“These types of toothless policies are irresponsible and virtually useless in protecting the aircraft,” Friend said. “We have no reason to believe that this equally weak language will go any further to protect our lives and the lives of our passengers. It’s a shame that this legislation does not provide the support that the Transportation Security Administration needs to make these potentially live-saving security changes, which is the reason for the legislation. But I remain hopeful that the TSA will step forward and require the type of mandatory training that will allow flight attendants to do our jobs and protect the people in the aircraft cabin.”

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