Stun guns and male crew: Korean Air to get tough on unruly passengers

Korean Air Lines said it will allow crew members to "readily use stun guns" to manage violent passengers, and hire more male flight attendants, after coming in for criticism from U.S. singer Richard Marx over its handling of a recent incident.

The new crew guidelines, announced on Tuesday following the Dec. 20 incident, will also include more staff training, use of the latest device to tie up a violent passenger, and the banning of passengers with a history of unruly behavior.

Men account for about one-tenth of Korean Air flight attendants, and the carrier said it will try to have at least one male on duty in the cabin for each flight.

"While U.S. carriers have taken stern action on violent on-board behavior following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 (2001), Asian carriers including us have not imposed tough standards because of Asian culture," Korean Air President Chi Chang-hoon told a news conference.

"We will use the latest incident to put safety foremost and strengthen our safety standards," he said.

In South Korea, the number of unlawful acts committed aboard airplanes has more than tripled over the past five years, according to government data.

South Korean police on Tuesday sought an arrest warrant for the passenger involved in the latest incident, identified by his surname Lim, on charges including inflicting injury to the crew and a passenger on the Vietnam to South Korea flight.

An airline spokesman said the man had consumed two and a half shots of whiskey during the flight.

The incident came to light when Marx said on Facebook and Twitter that he helped subdue "a psycho passenger attacking crew members and other passengers," accusing crew members of being "ill-trained" and "ill-equipped" to handle the "chaotic and dangerous event".

Marx's wife Daisy Fuentes, a TV host and model who was with the singer during the flight from Hanoi to Incheon near Seoul, said on Instagram that crew members "didn't know how to use the taser & they didn't know how to secure the rope around him (he got loose from their rope restraints 3 times)."

Video of the incident posted on YouTube showed a young man in a business class seat spitting and swearing at crew members trying to restrain him with a rope.

Lim, in his early 30s, appeared on Monday for questioning by police, wearing a mask, thick-rimmed glasses and a hat. He apologized for his behavior but said he could not remember what had happened, according to video shown by broadcaster SBS.

© REUTERS
Korean Air said it sent a thank-you letter to Marx's management agency for helping control Lim.

Korean Air was involved in a high-profile case of bad passenger behavior in late 2014 when the daughter of its chairman, who was an executive with the carrier, forced a flight crew chief off the plane at New York's JFK Airport because she was unhappy about the way she was served macadamia nuts.

The "nut rage" incident provoked widespread ridicule and resulted in the executive, Heather Cho, serving nearly five months in jail.


Korean Air crew to 'use more force' with unruly passengers

US singer Richard Marx said last week that he had intervened to help restrain a disruptive passenger on a Korean Air flight from Hanoi to Seoul.
Crew had been "ill-trained" and "ill-equipped", Marx said.
The airlines said it would also review the use of Taser guns on board.
"Korean Air will react more firmly and actively against in-flight violence that threatens the overall safety of the flight," it said in a statement.
As part of the changes, the airline said it would be providing more training to staff and hiring more male flight attendants, making sure at least one male is on duty in the cabin for each flight, according to Reuters news agency.

Marx's wife Daisy Fuentes, who was travelling with the singer, said the staff "didn't know how to use the taser" or to secure ropes.
Taser is a brand name often used to refer to electric stun guns.
"We have decided to improve our conditions and procedure on using Taser guns to cope with violent acts and disturbances on board in a fast and efficient manner," it added, but did not elaborate on how the rules would change.
The airline said that under existing rules, stun guns were permitted for use only in "grave" situations - where the safety of a flight or the life of passengers and crew were in danger.
This meant staff had been "hesitant" to use the equipment, the carrier added.
Individual airlines have their own policies on what equipment they carry on board to restrain passengers
Most carriers contacted by the BBC were unwilling to give details of what kit this included, citing security concerns.


Korean Air has given flight attendants the green light to use tasers on unruly passengers

Korean Air flight attendants will now have freer access to on-board Tasers.

On Tuesday, the Seoul-based airline “loosened” the usage policy for tasers located on board its aircraft, CNN reported.

“We have decided to improve our conditions and procedure on using Taser guns to cope with violent acts and disturbances on board in a fast and efficient manner,” Korean Air wrote in a statement to Reuters.

However, it is unclear how the airline will implement the new procedure or when it will take effect.

Korean Air was not immediately available to comment.

The policy shift comes one week after Korean Air drew criticism for its handling of an unruly passenger on a flight from Hanoi, Vietnam to Seoul.

On December 20, 80′s pop star Richard Marx stepped in to help the Korean Air cabin crew subdue a physically aggressive passenger. On Twitter, Marx criticized the crew of being “ill equipped to handle the situation.” In an Instagram post, Marx’s wife, former MTV VJ Daisy Fuentes, who was also on the flight, accused Korean Air flight attendants of not knowing how to use the on-board tasers and ropes.

According to Reuters, Korean Air stated that its cabin crew were hesitant to deploy its tasers because the equipment is only allowed to be used in situation where the lives of the passengers and crew are in danger or if the safety of the flight is under threat.

The policy is designed to give cabin crew more leeway in the decision to use tasers.

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