Korean Air Lines announced on Tuesday that it would be increasing stun gun training for crew members and hiring more male flight attendants in order to better handle violent passengers. The change comes after singer Richard Marx helped crew members subdue an unruly passenger aboard his Dec. 20 flight to Seoul.
“Korean Air has incredibly strong security measures but is beefing them up and reinforcing them by increasing Taser training, looking at putting male flight attendants on all flights and it’s going to increase the overall training in the cabin,” Korean Air spokesperson Penny Pfaelzer told NBC News Tuesday.
While some industry experts and veterans expressed support for additional training for stun gun use, others decried the addition of specifically male flight attendants as misguided.
“On one hand, you could not do that in the U.S. … say that you’re going to hire a certain gender,” Seth Kaplan, managing editor of industry journal Airline Weekly, told NBC News. “But on the other hand, I think the gender balance here is a lot better than it is” in East Asia.
Men account for about one-tenth of Korean Air flight attendants, according to Reuters.
Kaplan added that part of the issue was that “you don’t tend to have career flight attendants in that part of the world as much as you do in the U.S. and Europe.”
Jeff Price, aviation safety expert and professor of aerospace management at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said that while he supported stun gun use on violent passengers and additional training, the idea of adding specifically male flight attendants was “ridiculous.”
“I think the key point here is that we have trained person able to use the Taser to properly,” he said, adding “they shouldn’t be handing them out to any flight attendant that comes on board.”
But Price also said he thought it was “ridiculous to say that males are more capable” of properly dealing with a violent passenger.
Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told NBC News in a statement that the airline “should spend less time practicing sexist policies and more time implementing training and providing Flight Attendants with tools that actually make a difference.”
“Flight Attendants are uniquely skilled to calm the ever crowded, tight-spaced aircraft cabin. Gender has no bearing on ability to control an unruly passenger,” she said in the statement.
“Weapons are meaningless and likely even more dangerous without proper training to use them,” she added.
The incident that sparked the most recent change from the airline involved an erratic passenger and went on for more than four hours, according to Marx’s wife, model and former MTV VJ Daisy Fuentes. She added on social media that crew were unable to stop the violent passenger even after pulling out a stun gun.
“On our flight from Hanoi to Seoul a guy sitting in the next row from us got crazy started attacking the flight attendants passengers,” wrote Feuntes, who posted images of the incident on social media. “When he started pushing the female staff and pulling them by the hair @therichardmarx was the first to help subdue him.”
Images Fuentes posted show Marx with his elbow to the back of the unidentified passenger and in a separate image holding a rope.
“They 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),” she added.
Retired American Airlines Captain Jay Rollins said the United States had already been through an influx of increased security following the September 11 terror attacks and that the new guidelines were generally “on the right path.”
However, Rollins added that better security was not about the gender of the crew members, but about individuals being “prepared to get physical” when dealing with a violent passenger.