Self-defense training for flight attendants

NEW YORK -- Safety in the skies is a responsibility that falls onto the flight crew as soon as the cabin doors are locked and loaded, but after recent, violent encounters aboard passenger planes, flight attendants are taking safety into their own hands.

In an undisclosed building near LaGuardia Airport, it was early morning and more than a dozen flight attendants on their day off were being trained in self-defense.

TSA Air Marshals, some whom Eyewitness News can't identify, are teaching flight attendants to fight back.

"You just want to have that know-how, something at least basic, so that I can feel comfortable to protect myself," flight attendant Jessica Prendimano said.

Prendimano hopes she never has to use what's being taught in the mock fuselage of a real flight.

"It gives me something to stand on, so that if I'm unfortunately ever in that circumstance, I feel that I'll be able to take care of myself," Prendimano said.

Internationally, incidents of unruly passengers have soared up 16 percent since 2015. Though in the United States, the numbers are actually down.

The FAA reported 183 arrests of unruly passengers in 2012, and that number has dropped every year to a low of 92 arrests in 2016, a 50 percent decline.

But try convincing the flight attendants that bad behavior is on the decline, but their experiences tell them the opposite. And their guts tell them they need to be prepared.

"With the fundamentals of this, I'm going to know what to do," flight attendant Dayle Hoffman said.

So whatever happened to flying the friendly skies?

"Very little does happen, when you consider the amount of flights that occur daily or yearly," said Scott Armstrong, a TSA instructor with the Federal Air Marshal Service. "Very few incidents do occur, but I mean, it only takes that one time."

Armstrong said most of the 11,000 flight attendants he's helped teach since 9/11 will never use their self-defense skills, but a few will.

"If they're the last line of defense to defend that other passenger or defend themselves or defend that aircraft, then any tool that they can have to do that is going to be beneficial to them," Armstrong said.

And they won't hesitate to use those skills, if need be.

"My safety is top priority," Prendimano said. "If I'm not OK, then my customers aren't either."

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