Airlines Want Air Marshals To Stop Flying First Class

The airlines are fed up with with seeing armed air marshals taking up free seats in first class. A trade group representing the major U.S. carriers has asked the Federal Air Marshals Service to consider putting their agents in coach.

According to reports, the Air Transport Association and several airline CEOs have appealed to the head of the Transportation Security Administration in the hope of putting air marshals in the cheap seats.

Writes USA Today:

The airlines and some security experts say the need isn’t as great as it once was for marshals to sit in first class, where they can serve as a barrier to a suicide hijacker. They say security measures such as hardened cockpit doors and recent terrorist attempts in the rear of planes suggest that threats may be at least as great elsewhere on planes….

Marshals contend it was “inappropriate” for the airlines to raise the issue publicly because it could expose the agency’s tactics to terrorists, says John Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents marshals.

Airlines seek to move air marshals from first class [USA Today]


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  1. Costner says:

    Seems only fair. Everyone knows terrorists only fly coach anyway because they aren’t about to spend good money on a seat they only intend to sit in for 15 minutes, so the Air Marshals might as well be where the action is am i rite?

    • mexifelio says:

      I don’t know, are you an established, ceremonious, usually religious act or process art?

    • physics2010 says:

      On the other hand they might as well be comfortable for those 15 minutes. Not like they need to save up for retirement.

    • aloria says:

      I don’t know… if I only had a few hours left to live, I think I’d spring for the fancy seats. It’s not like I am going to miss the money.

    • NYGuy1976 says:

      The 4 hijackers on the AA flight that hit the WTC were all sitting in first class.

  2. smartmuffin says:

    Seems like the air marshals have a good point. Bringing this into the public square is petty and juvenille and only serves to give potential terrorists information they don’t need.

    • Mariushm says:

      Sure, because those pesky terrorists are dumb and wouldn’t think the door of an airplane would be the most protected, and they don’t have Google, Discovery and National Geographic channels to find out how planes are protected.

    • fs2k2isfun says:

      The Air Marshal program is a huge waste of money. The airlines are right to bring this issue up. The Marshal flying in First costs airlines millions of dollars extra compared to them sitting in coach every year. In our post 9/11 environment, there is little an Air Marshal can do that passengers can’t do themselves in the case of a situation.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        An air marshal sitting in first class only costs the airline in real terms if every other passenger in first was paying for a first-class ticket, and there was at least 1 more person willing to pay for the ticket.

        I’d wager that at least half of the people in first class are there because they have high status with the airline’s frequent flyer program and got an upgrade, not because they paid for a first class seat.

        • kilpatds says:

          At which point, the marshall is reducing the value of the frequent flier program, by reducing the number of people who can take advantage of it. And thus indirectly redicing airline revenues.

          • RandomHookup says:

            Except that the people who get to the level of flying where they get upgraded often aren’t usually willing to give up flying with a preferred airline and start all over again. All it really does is give the airline one (slightly) more disgruntled passenger in the main cabin.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Anybody who flies more than 3x a month can easily not only tell you that the air marshals sit in first, but point them out if you ask. They’re the guys not wearing headphones, with no rollaboard suitcase, and not working on a laptop.

      • ARP says:

        Agreed. Honestly, they’re pretty easy to spot. They look like cops, who are slightly dressed up (which is exactly what they are) and carry very little luggage. What they do carry usually appears token.

      • NatalieErin says:

        And not reading or sleeping or talking to their traveling companion.

    • nbs2 says:

      Right. Because a terrorist didn’t know to spot the surly guy, sitting in first, who didn’t take his suit coat off and won’t have anything other than water to drink. And the all-too-often telltale bulge in the coat or expose firearm isn’t a giveaway either.

    • shepd says:

      Yes, because security through obscurity is the best kind of security! We must work to protect it! That’s why only my back door is unlocked. It’s hard to see from the street so I know I’m safe!

    • Bohemian says:

      Flying in coach makes people all stabby. Do we really one the one person on the plane with a gun who has to fly for a living being jammed into coach?

    • nakkypoo says:

      Oh NO! The secret is out. The terrorists were clueless as to where the air marshals sat up until the airlines outed them. We’re f—-d now!

  3. gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

    security via obscurity is NEVER a god long-term plan. especially when it’s something that can be easily observed by anyone that flies regularly.

  4. outis says:

    Typical mistreated airline passenger + firearm + coach. Yeah, this is a good idea.
    But seriously, shouldn’t the air marshals have quicker access to he flight crew and cockpit than the galley? If they’re so worried about the revenue, just tack on a fee for something silly or charge for meals or….

  5. dolemite says:

    The bit about “don’t question the government, because you are helping the terrorists if you do” gets a bit tired after awhile.

    • WagTheDog says:

      Or, don’t take a photo of our employees, even if they doing wrong, because the terrorists could use that for I-don’t-know-what but they could so stop it.

  6. Arimer says:

    yeah sit them in couch to where even if they wanted to do something now they are too pissed off to care.

    • shepd says:

      Seems to me that the opportunity to stand and run about the plane with a gun would come as a welcome change to the cramped seats.

  7. bitslammer says:

    Last row of seats in the plane would have the best vantage point seeing all the passengers.

    • Jfielder says:

      There are some benefits to this, the only question is; will the drink cart, the two flight attendants, the child playing in the aisle obscure the view, or get in the way of the air marshall should he need to move forward.

      I certainly see your point though, in fact one of the things that’s often taught to concealed pistol carriers is that you should always position yourself in a way that you get the best possible view of whatever facility you’re in… Most likely you’d want to be able to see entrances, exits, and a majority of the space.

    • Caveat says:

      Absolutely the best seats, but how would they get their free drinks without blowing their cover? They would have to pay for them or fill out an expense report to charge them to the taxpayers.

    • bon13 says:

      clearly you do not fly very often…

  8. StutiCebriones says:

    And how about letting them be the first ones bumped? The compensation can go to reducing the deficit.

  9. themicah says:

    “Airlines Want Air Marshals To Stop Flying First Class”

    Taxpayers Want Air Marshals to Stop Flying. Period.

    • ophmarketing says:

      Um…speak for yourself.

    • Illusio26 says:

      No they don’t.

    • Scoobatz says:

      Completely agree.

    • CapitalistPig says:

      Pretty stupid comment, methinks. Especially when very few people have the stones to take on a guy with a gun/bomb…Id like to see if you feel the same way when some Haji decides at 35,000 feet that your plane would sure make a nice building missile.

      • OutPastPluto says:

        Are you kidding? The day that Jihadis started using planes as guided missiles is the day that every American flyer “grew a pair”. People have nearly been lynched in the interim.

        Al Queda permanently changed the ground rules and gave everyone a new set of more dire expectations.

  10. Firethorn says:


    I can see both sides, I think:

    -First class is expensive. Each seat a Marshall takes up costs the airline around 5-10 times as much money as a coach seat.
    -Terrorists can predict that any marshals are in first class; give special attention to it.
    -Terrorists may not be planning an attack that requires access to cockpit or even first class

    -Air Marshalls end up flying a lot. Coach is so cramped that it might cause long term issues. Back strain, stress, etc…
    -First class seats are larger. If a marshal has to move quickly, he or she is more likely to be able to do so from a first class seat. Stuck in a coach sized seat, they may prove too stiff for the explosive action that might be necessary.
    -Those ‘hardened’ cockpit doors might have a vulnerability that can still be exploited, perhaps an attack timed for when it’s opened; having a marshal up there might prevent the terrorists from siezing the cockpit and using the door against the crew and passangers.

    • Harmodios says:

      Yeah, imagine if the Marshall is in a coach window seat, he’ll have no way to move quickly.

    • dreamfish says:

      “Coach is so cramped that it might cause long term issues. Back strain, stress, etc.”

      What about everyone else who has to travel a lot but can’t afford business-class prices? Is it just ‘tough’ for them?

      At the very least they could have a bulkhead seat, with the extra legroom and ability to get up quickly in an emergency. Problem solved.

      • SabreDC says:

        When it is the legal responsibility of anyone else to take down a terrorist or violent passenger, let me know.

    • dosdelon says:

      I agree completely. If terrorists are going to try and take the plane they’ll likely try to take the cockpit. Having the Air Marshals in First Class means they’ll be where the action is. Perhaps airlines could just move First Class to the back of the plane.

    • Ilovegnomes says:

      First class also has less people in it so it might be easier to tell who should or shouldn’t be up in that section if someone is trying to gain access to the cockpit.

    • dg says:

      I agree on letting them sit in 1st class and not coach – at least until the seats in Coach are spaced enough that the AM can get out of that seat quickly if the need arises.

      The airlines are full of shit.

  11. Bativac says:

    Why don’t they just start putting uniformed armed guards on planes?

    Also to keep us from having to buckle and unbuckle our seatbelts, can’t they just restrain our ankles and wrists to the chair?

    Maybe the airlines should look at those old slave ship diagrams and lay the passengers out in such a fashion. All you’d need is one burly guy with a mace or a pair of nunchucks walking back and forth, giving us dirty looks as we lay waiting to be freed.

    • AllanG54 says:

      If there were uniformed guards then
      1. you’d know who to wipe out first
      2. if you didn’t see one on the plane you’d know there weren’t any at all so the point of being incognito is gone.

      • AI says:

        Wipe out first with what? A rolled up copy of SkyMall vs a gun?

      • Alvis says:

        Then why aren’t all police plainclothes? Don’t uniforms just make it easier for criminals to spot them?

        • Firethorn says:

          For the same reason most militaries aren’t ‘plainclothes’. In ‘most’ situations, announcing their affiliation via the uniform helps prevent friendly fire incidents*, prove authority, and provide obvious warning.

          Note that most criminals aren’t looking to die, and they KNOW that while they might be able to ambush and kill a cop, the cops generally respond with MASSIVE retaliation. So, on average, the uniform actually protects.

          *A number of plainclothes police have been shot by uniformed and ununiformed officers in the same area.

  12. The cake is a lie! says:

    They are only taking the first class seat because there isn’t anyone else in them. The airline loses no revenue from that. It may piss off some frequent fliers who can’t upgrade, but that’s life.

    I worked for a major airline for many years and left shortly after 9/11 due to fleet cuts and how the airlines started upgrading everybody with a heartbeat. It used to be that airline employees were always able to get first class, but now we are lucky to get on the plane. It would piss me off even more to not get first class because air marshals decided to take the seat instead so they could be more comfy and take a nap. They aren’t the most alert guys on the plane if you ask me. I’ve sat next to several of them and it isn’t like they are constantly scanning the plane. They are a waste of money and are taking up seats which could be revenue or benefits for someone else.

    • balthisar says:

      They sure as heck lose the revenue. I tend to always pay for a first class upgrade (out of pocket, as my company only allows coach tickets), unless the air marshals take all the free seats. A poster above mentioned 5 to 10 times the coach fare, which isn’t true, either. Upgrades usually only cost $200 between DTW and DFW, for example.

      • Firethorn says:

        An upgrade is cheaper than first class, yes.

        I was talking about the straight up price difference I’ve seen between first class tickets and coach.

  13. outlulz says:

    I can see why the airlines are annoyed. It’s like paying for premium insurance you know you’ll never use. The probability of a terrorist attack happening are so low on a particular flight that they don’t want to treat the marshals like kings for free every flight while they don’t really do anything.

  14. Guppy06 says:

    Easy solution: put the first class seats in the back of the plane. Unless all the first class passengers really like having all coach passengers parade past them as they board the plane.

    • Crim Law Geek says:

      First Class is in the front because it’s the quietest part of the plane. It also lets FC passengers exit first.

  15. Scoobatz says:

    Or, we could just get rid of the air marshal program all-together. It’s proven to be a colossal waste of money, poorly managed, and arguably ineffective. Remember the underwear bomber? There wasn’t even an air marshal on that plane. I think it’s time to eliminate all these programs that only serve to give us a false sense of security.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      That’s because the flight was both international AND did not originate in the US.

      Your argument isn’t for LESS of a presence, but for MORE. If there were NO Air Marshalls, then an Air Marshall wouldn’t have been on the plane with the underwear bomber. If, however, there was an Air Marshall on *EVERY* flight, it would’ve been covered.

      There *should* be fewer Air Marshalls, along with a far reduced TSA presence, but that’s not the point your story illustrates.

  16. MitchV says:

    Does anyone really think this BS security is making air travel safer?

    Does anyone remember the kid who managed to get box cutters on a plane in North Carolina to prove that new security measures are ineffective? He put the materials in the plane and then informed the FBI… I think they sent him to jail for showing how ineffective these measures are.

  17. davere says:

    Make them flight attendants and put them to work serving drinks.

  18. IThinkThereforeIAm says:

    Maybe they could sit in the flight-crew seats… that way they would not take up “pay” seats, they could wear airline uniform (so they would not be conspicuous) and they could oversee the areas they are assigned to.

    • Rachacha says:

      Your comment gave me a terrible visual of a pumped up steroid muscle man wearing a flight attendant mini skirt…eww
      Granted I am playing into every stereotype but my brain must have wanted to torture me.

  19. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Will they have enough room to actually pull out their weapon in coach?

  20. klippies says:

    Can someone calculate how many attacks these guys stopped since 9/11 and how many flights they have taken?

    • Firethorn says:

      It’s hard to say. I am unaware of any incidents of actual terrorism they have stopped, but we have to be careful of the ‘averted attack’ scenario where, because of the threat of air marshals, they don’t bother attacking in the first place.

    • peebozi says:

      why do you hate america? have you heard of any successful hijackings? if you’re answer is “no” then you know the only logical explanation is because air marchals are on the plane!

      terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror….scared ya, didn’t I?!?

  21. papastevez says:

    If the security practices are not secure enough to be publicized than they are not secure at all. They should use the OSS model to determine best practices.

  22. peebozi says:

    why do the airlines hate america!? terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror…straighten up and get in line “flyboys”. if air marshals don’t sit in first class then the terrorists win.

  23. headhot says:

    Who would take a job flying all day only to sit in coach. You think there aren’t enough marshals now?

    • peebozi says:

      there are plenty of marshals…i don’t hear anyone complaining.

      and let me guess, you must think that Americans won’t pick vegetables because it’s hard work, not because they can’t compete against $2/hour.

  24. Just_A_Guy says:

    So…just look for the person in first class that isn’t drinking, and that’s my air marshal, right?

  25. NewGrace says:

    I use to fly armed regularly, and none of you would of guessed it. I looked 16, weighed 130lbs. Now, if I walked around, that would be super obvious, because you aint hiding a gun bulge when you weigh 130lbs. But I didnt wear jackets, or anything else that wouldnt look right for an old teen/young adult to wear.

    I couldnt drink alcohol, but i read magazines, played on my phone, whatever passed the time… like all the other passengers.

    The only thing I hated, was going thru the security gates. Looking young, it seemed everybody and their mother had to check my paperwork and badge before letting me by.

    And I road coach, near the front, but coach damn it. Of course i wasnt an air marshall, but still. If no air marshall on board, it was my skinny ass that was going to take you down.

    • TheGhostshark says:

      I’m not sure why, if you’re not a marshal, why the fuck you’re flying on an airplane carrying a gun.

  26. Slave For Turtles says:

    If air marshals are penned up in shitty little seats like the rest of us, perhaps the government will get involved in making those seats more comfortable.

    Nah, that’ll never happen. The marshals will remain up front. Sorry.

    • peebozi says:

      why do you hate america?! if the seats were too small then we would stop flying until an airline came out with bigger seats. don’t you know how the free market works?

  27. Caldonia says:

    I can’t bring a 4.5 oz bottle on the plane, or a mini juice for my kid, but there isn’t a need for the marshal to protect the pilot. Eh?

    • TheGhostshark says:

      protect him from what, exactly? He’s behind a locked, reinforced door. All of this security bullshit is a colossal waste of time and money. Of course, I’m obviously a godless communist who hates ‘murrica.

    • Scoobatz says:

      You got it. Nor is there any good reason you shouldn’t be able to bring a mini juice box on the plane for your kid.

  28. sunnypies says:

    “Marshals contend it was “inappropriate” for the airlines to raise the issue publicly because it could expose the agency’s tactics to terrorists…” I agree!

  29. Lollerface says:

    I would think an air Marshall would need to get up quickly if something happens. He isnt going anywhere fast in a coach seat.

  30. sopmodm14 says:

    sort of agree i guess

    maybe put them last seat in first class or first seat in coach

    unless there’s one marshal for each section

  31. NYGuy1976 says:

    Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to just arm the pilots?

  32. Conformist138 says:

    Bah… everyone knows that the best defense a plane has is the combined anger of a group of people still partway through their American Security Theater experience. 9/11 was the only time there has ever been any “success” with using a plane as a weapon. The other times, passengers just opened a can of whoop-ass and called it a day. Some jerk tries to light his shoe or underpants on fire and about a dozen of his nearest neighbors will put him in a coma before the Marshal wakes up from his nap.

    I read some fun info awhile back about how the budget for the Marshals makes each arrest they make worth roughly $200 million. Marshal arrests vs Marshals arrested is also a sad sad statistic. If we had more police officers getting arrested than actually making arrests themselves, we’d throw a fit. But, somehow the Marshals get away with it.

    These guys do nothing but make people “feel” safer at a cost of nearly a billion dollars a year. Not worth it, let some people be scared, they’ll get over it.

  33. DragonThermo says:

    Their timing is all wrong for this. If they had done it during President Bush’s administration, they would be heroes for releasing sensitive (if not confidential) information like the CIA did when they released confidential national security information to the NY Times. But now in the current administration, national security leaks are counter-revolutionary.

    That’s the problem with this country. There are always people willing to sell their soul and their country for thirty pieces of silver.

  34. bukkler says:

    Seems like the rear of the plane would be the best place to keep an eye on everything, anyway.

  35. Terron says:

    So while the air marshall is in coach, the terrorists just have to book first class seats and have free reign in first class/the cockpit right? Good idea, airlines

  36. anduin says:

    That picture is bullsh*t! I’ve sat in those spacious first class seats and theres NO way I could stretch my legs like that and be nowhere near the seat. Those are small people or children in the picture.