Air marshals are trained federal agents equipped with a gun to protect the Airplane passengers and cabin crew from terrorist attackers and other criminal activities onboard.
We know that not every flight has an air marshal, and only 5% of US flights have air marshals on board.
It isn’t cost-effective to have an air marshal on each flight when thousands of flights take place domestically because one air marshal can cost $3,3300 per flight.
If this is the cost for domestic flights, imagine how much it would cost for a commercial flight.
Rather than putting air marshals on every flight, TSA strategically deploys air marshals where there is a chance of a potential threat.
Is there a Plane Marshall on every flight
Air Marshalls are still a part of flying but not every plane has a plane marshall onboard. The limited number and higher cost of Air Marshals makes it impossible to have an Air marshal on each and every flight where thousands of flights are taking place in a day.
Domestic vs. International Flights
Air Marshals are always available on commercial or International flights compared to domestic flights, where air marshals board random flights.
After an increasing number of plane hijackings in the United States, the government formed the Federal Air Marshal Service ( FAMS ) in 1961, which added another line of defense after the fences and barriers for the protection of the passengers and flight crew on board.
This initiative dramatically controlled flight incidents because the onboard air marshals were fully trained and equipped to restrain the attackers, arrest attackers, and handle unruly or disruptive passengers onboard.
In the biggest incident in history, where the TWA flight 847 was hijacked, the need for air marshals also arose for international flights.
Later on, the post-9/11 era completely changed the flight policies regarding the safety of everything.
International Flights of the US
Compared to domestic flights, there are more air marshals on commercial flights ranging from 2 to 4.
The disappointing thing is that most air marshals are always tired or sleep-deprived due to their hectic flight schedules.
passengers protection, risk of terrorist activity, aircraft piracy, other crimes onboard
International Flights of the UK
The United Kingdom took flight accidents seriously, and in 2002, a program called Aircraft Protection Operations ( APO ) was initiated to promise UK passengers flight safety.
International Flights of Canada
Canada also faced a handful of flight accidents and hijacking attempts that resulted in the Canadian Air Carrier Protection/Protection Program, launched on September 17, 2002.
Unlike the US air marshals, the Canadian marshals are called APOs or Aircraft protective officers.
International Flights of Australia
Following the other big countries, Australian Air Aviation started a program of Air Security Officers to protect domestic and international flights from potential threats, violence, and other flight accidents to ensure safe sky travel.
Active Duty Air Marshals
The exact figure of the active duty air marshals is kept secret; This confidential information should never be released publicly for the safety of passengers and the onboard crew.
For an idea, we can say that there are roughly 3,000 to 5,000 active duty air marshal personnel.
Weapons and Air Marshals
Air Marshals are highly trained to combat tough situations like a terrorist trying to hijack a plane on a flight with a weapon.
And that is why they are authorized to carry armed ammunition like SIG Sauer P229 or a combat knife to remain equipped for secret assignments.
Although these officers are trained to respond to criminal and terrorist threats, sometimes unruly and disruptive passengers can also cause them to reveal their identity to arrest such passengers who are later fined and even prohibited from flying.
Air Marshal Identification ( Hot To Spot an Air Marshal )
The air marshal’s identity should remain a secret even if you are sure about someone to be an air marshal. Part of their job is to remain hidden and act when mandatory and no one should point out an air marshal because that can compromise the security of the entire plane.
Plus, you should never ask the flight crew about the air marshal or try to talk to an air marshal directly if you have even identified or spotted one. Asking about an air marshal can make you look suspicious as well.
So, if you would like to be a good citizen and remain calm when identifying an air marshal, these are the tips to spot an air marshal.
Typically an air marshal will be traveling alone without any luggage, and sometimes the air marshal is either sitting before the first person boards the plane or the air marshal is the last person to board the plane. Similarly, the air marshals are perfectly in shape and sit in the back of the plane to easily keep an eye on everyone on the plane.
Only the flight staff knows about an air marshal, but they are also not authorized to disclose this information.
Rise of Air Marshals
The biggest incident in history is the 9/11 incident that changed the entire world, and the biggest impact was on air aviation or aerial transportation.
The fact is that there was no air marshal on a 9/11 plane because, at that time, only 33 air marshals were serving on international flights.
Compared with international flights, thousands of domestic flights were taking place every day, and there was no chance to get an air marshal on each flight; that is why domestic flights were hijacked during the 9/11 life-altering incident.
Post 9/11, the need for air marshals rose like never before, and the number of air marshals went from 33 to 600 in a single month right after the 9/11 accident; more were to join this force later, and the training and hiring began to never stop in the coming future.
Role of an Air Marshal
Air marshals are highly skilled federally-trained officers, and their duties include deterring, detecting, and defeating criminal and hostile activities on a flight. They are not allowed to intervene in flight incidents unless life-threatening or potentially deadly situations occur.
The need for air marshals rose again after 9/11. In the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, fights occurring due to mask mandates and law enforcement on planes became more serious than ever to handle conflicts and unruly passenger behavior onboard flights.
So, the roles of air marshals are to detain criminals onboard, handle assaults on a flight attendant, handcuff unruly or misbehaving passengers, or even use handcuffs if required. In serious situations, they can break their cover following their protocols and use self-defense tactics to catch terrorists and confiscate weapons onboard.
In simple words, the Air Marshals are a team of emergency responders allowed to use conventional and unconventional self-defense tactics to ensure the safety of passengers and the aircraft flight crew.
Many people think that the role of an air marshal is to escort prisoners on a plane. Still, the real job of an air marshal is to protect everyone, including themselves on a plane, to make sure the plane is neither hijacked nor not destroyed due to the violent elements on the plane.
Plane safety and Security
Although the air marshals are deployed to protect flight attendants from attackers, misconduct of passengers, or other emergencies on the plane.
Some other safety and security parameters are also defined to ensure the plane remains highly secure and away from the hands of hijackers and criminals.
Every year, billions of tax dollars are spent on airport security to hire, train, and deploy a screener workforce, but there is always a shortage of staff and TSA’s hiring process.
Therefore, some upgrades are made to the planes, like installing locks on cockpit doors that prevent criminals and hijackers capable of flying the plane from entering the cockpit and protect the passenger jet from any violent activity.
How many air marshals are there?
The United States has more than 5,000 active duty air marshals serving randomly on different flights.
Are Air Marshals Undercover?
Air Marshals are undercover trained officers onboard to intervene in threatening situations.