Two Viral Incidents In One Month — Why Flight Attendants Duct Tape Unruly Passengers

Photo: YouTube
passengers duct taped on airplanes

For the second time in a month, airplane passengers have had to be restrained via duct tape as seen in viral videos all over social media.

The first case back in early July involved a woman trying to escape her American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Charlotte, attempting to open the emergency exits mid-air and attacking flight attendants as they tried to subdue her.

The second happened this past weekend. Maxwell Berry, 22, who had been drinking during his Frontier Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Miami, was restrained to his seat via duct tape after allegedly groped two flight attendants and assaulting a third.

The action may seem extreme but it calls into question how vulnerable flight attendants are to attacks and how ill-equipped they are to deal with these incidents.

Are flight attendants trained for attacks and is it legal to duct tape a passenger on an airplane?

Flight attendants are urged to undergo self-defense training to deal with onboard incidents but the question of how equipped they are to restrain passengers — and with what materials — may different from airline to airline.

A source close to YourTango who works for an airline based in the U.S. let us in on what exactly their standard procedure is.

“We’re taught to deescalate first and foremost so it should never come to having to duct tape someone’s mouth,” they said, adding, “We’re not supposed to restrain passengers unless it gets to a certain threat level that’s physical and likely to cause bodily harm.”

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In the case of the woman on the American Airlines flight, flight attendants and passengers did to console her when she started yelling and asking to get off the plane, but to no avail.

Finally, when she attempted to open the emergency doors, which would have put the entire plane in danger, she was tackled and restrained by the crew.

Similarly, in the Berry incident, after he groped the two flight attendants, a third flight attendant was sent to watch him.

But Berry decided he would assault his guardian, causing the crew to restrain him.

Deescalating the situation doesn't seem like the most viable option when passengers are a direct threat, but our source is still shocked by the use of duct tape in this manner.

“We have certain restraint systems on the plane that don’t include duct tape,” our source said, “we have flex cuffs which are basically like big zip ties.”

“We don’t even have duct tape anywhere on the plane so I don't know where these flight attendants are getting it.”

It’s odd that two different airlines and two different isolated incidents had duct tape on deck to help them in restraining these passengers, but can you really blame them for having to resort to something like that?

Flight attendants are vulnerable to assault from passengers.

The incidents show just how exposed flight attendants are when dealing with passengers and how easily they can be blamed.

In the first incident, there were no repercussions for the flight attendants who had to deal with the female passenger.

In the case of Maxwell Berry, however, the crew members were sent on paid leave while ‘pending investigations’ are completed.

Some are wondering why the crew was suspended in the first place.

“Flight attendants aren’t only trying to keep themselves safe but also all of the other passengers,” said our source, “would you want to be on a plane for hours with someone carrying on like that?”

In a lot of these situations, there isn’t much for a flight crew to do.

“Flight attendants are your security guards, firefighters, police officers, and medics.”

Flex cuffs only restrain your hands, so these violent and lashing passengers would still be able to get out of their seats and cause problems, as well as continuing to yell and frighten everyone else on the plane.

When all else fails, what are you supposed to do?

RELATED: How It Feels To Be A Flight Attendant During The Coronavirus Pandemic

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In-flight incidents are rising.

Since lighter restrictions on flying and travel have been in place because of the pandemic, incidents in the air have reached high numbers, with 2,500 incidents having been recorded since the start of May and the number of “unruly” incidents increasing from under 200 in 2019 to 394 in 2020.

Constantly changing mask rules, pandemic fatigue, less frequent flyers, and a rise in violence in general — likely due to the pandemic.

Frequent flyers are also a lot less likely to cause problems onboard because they have a basic understanding of what’s expected of them and from the airline.

Mask mandates, vaccination proof, there are so many ways for people’s toes to be stepped on that it’s almost impossible to avoid some sort of conflict.

Flight crew are trained in deescalation techniques, but sometimes that isn’t enough — and that’s where the duct tape comes in.

Maxwell Berry is out on a $1500 bond but faces three separate accounts of battery, and potentially more pending the results of the investigation.

In since deleted tweets from an account believed to his, Berry wrote: "To be clear I DID NOT GROPE ANYBODY. This is just the stupid narrative that the media is pushing... This will forever be the most dehumanizing experience in my entire life. Many people laughed and ridiculed me as I was mistreated by staff of a PROFESSIONAL airline. Just to make matters worth this has gone 'viral' on the internet and will never disappear."

While it’s unlikely that you’ll be duct taped to your seat on your end-of-the-summer vacation flights, be nice to the crew — they deal with enough already.

RELATED: How A Delta Flight Attendant Became A Young Adoptee’s Friend For Life

Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and relationships.