Air Marshals Will Refuse Orders To Go To The Border, Prefer Protecting First Class Cabins

U.S. Air Marshals are complaining about the President’s plan to send them to the U.S. border, claiming that it’ll leave 99% of flights ‘unprotected’. And they’re “prepared to defy the Biden administration’s latest border security plan.”

Now, as air marshals are being ordered to the border, dozens of rank and file members have indicated they will refuse the assignments. An association of air marshals known as the Air Marshal National Council recently sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FAMS Director Tirrell Stevenson, warning that air marshals will refuse orders to go to the border.

“The rank and file air marshals are going to refuse to deploy and risk termination,” David Londo, a 16-year DHS employee and president of the Air Marshal National Council, told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday. “You’re almost going to have a mutiny of a federal agency, which is unheard of.”

Three things are striking.

  • Armed federal officers publicly threatening to defy orders from the President seems like it’s getting insufficient attention.

  • The Biden administration largely continuing Trump’s border policies (he’s building the wall!) seems under-covered as well.

  • The claim about vulnerable flights as a result is absurd.

No air marshal has ever stopped a terrorist or hijacker since the service was founded in 1962. Although an air marshal did shoot and kill a US citizen in 2005. If something really bad did happen on a flight and an air marshal was onboard they lack the training to do anything about it.

An air marshal left a loaded gun in the lavatory of a Delta flight. Another left a loaded gun in a Newark airport bathroom and another in a Philadelphia airport restroom. In 2001 an air marshal left a hangun in an aircraft lavatory where it was found by a teenager.

One actually sued for being denied his first choice of meal in first class and because a flight attendant spilled a drink on him. He approached the cockpit to report these incidents to the captain — and threatened the pilot.

    Liam Neeson in 2014 film “Non-Stop”

Air marshals scheduled work assignments to facilitate vacations and sexual trysts. A United flight was delayed to remove a drunk air marshal.

Even by 2008 we had plenty of cumulative experience with air marshals.

  • One “smuggled cocaine and drug money onto flights across the country, boasting to an FBI informant that he was ‘the man with the golden badge.'”

  • Another lured a young boy to a hotel room, showed him child pornography, took pictures of him naked and sexually abused him.

  • Two air marshals tried to hire a “hit man nicknamed ‘the Crucifixer.'”

  • An air marshal abducted a prostitute during a layover in Washington DC.

  • An air marshal “pulled his gun in a dispute over a parking space

  • One fired their gun inside a Las Vegas hotel room, another fired theirs in a Phoenix bar fight.

  • Not to mention,

    air marshals have taken bribes, committed bank fraud, hired an escort while on layover and doctored hotel receipts to pad expenses, records show. They’ve been found sleeping on planes and lost the travel documents of U.S. diplomats while on a whiskey-tasting trip in Scotland.

We spend $200 million per arrest on the air marshal program. And to be clear that is not $200 million per arrest of a terror suspect, most are just passengers behaving badly.

According to a FOIA request for reports of air marshal misconduct, the TSA shared:

For starters, air marshals were arrested 148 times from November 2002 through February 2012. There were another 58 instances of “criminal conduct.”

In addition, air marshals engaged in more than 5,000 less serious incidents of misconduct, ranging from 1,200 cases of lost equipment to missing 950 flights they were supposed to protect.

…250 air marshals have been terminated for misconduct; another 400 resigned or retired while facing investigation.

Air marshals have been suspended more than 900 times, resulting in more than 4,600 days lost to misconduct.

The Washington field office had the most incidents with 530 cases, followed by New York with 471, Chicago and Dallas with 373 each and Los Angeles with 363. There were 85 cases at air marshal headquarters, highlighting that in some cases, misconduct has extended to the top brass.

It turns out the government knows the air marshal program is such a mess that the TSA formally checks the sobriety of air marshals showing up at the airport.

And they go through this step even though the Department of Homeland Security admits they do “not have information on [the air marshal program’s] effectiveness” and they go on to say they do not “have data on the deterrent effect” of the program at all.

So maybe the reassignment of air marshals is President Biden’s plan to undermine Trump’s border efforts, after all?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If Gary Leff was a politician all he would have to do is republish this compilation of air marshals behaving badly and the entire country will rise up in a bipartisan fashion to demand the end of air marshals. Same for the end of hertz car rentals.

  2. Thoughts like yours are what is absurd. I find it unlikely that anyone is sharing with you anything safety or security related, I don’t care how many flight attendants tip you off. I can say that I have never had an intoxicated air marshal on my flight, or one that required a seat belt extension. While I will agree that a marshal needs to go where they are needed, and right now they are needed at the border. But only a fool believes that nothing can happen in the air, and they are as necessary today, as they were right after 9/11.

  3. Kimberly,

    You’re an uncritical thinker. You regurgitate spoonfed lies. Our country is not under this much threat. Republicans sell that image to keep the hoi polloi on edge and voting for their disgusting politics every election. Where did Gary say he believes nothing can happen in the air? Gary laid out SPECIFIC FACTS AND EVIDENCE of air marshals causing chaos. All you have in response is your asinine anecdotes about you never seeing a drunk or fat air marshal, as if that matters. Kimberly, it’s time to clean the sand out of your vagina.

  4. @Gary,

    Agree and disagree.

    Agree: Air Marshals are largely a joke.

    Disagree: Them refusing shouldn’t really garner more attention. First, they didn’t sign on to be border patrol agents. Second, federal agents don’t swear the same oath or obligate themselves the way military members do. They can refuse any order at any time. Sure, they would and should be fired, but it is well within their rights to refuse.

  5. “No air marshal has ever stopped a terrorist or hijacker since the service was founded in 1962.”

    While I’m no defender of air marshals, the above statement is faulty reasoning, Gary. This is like a bank owner determining it’s no longer necessary to keep cash in the vault at night because his bank has never been robbed.

  6. Maybe same poorly selection as member of lot.of US military now. That is why we are seeing more of.these domino effects of poorly behaved people

  7. What low information nonsense. Especially about dementia Joe and immigration.

    The only thing that’s remotely accurate in the article is that the air marshal program is basically useless, but not as useless as rest of the TSA.

  8. I am sure they are just waiting for the border czar aka VP Harris and the President to make their first trip to the border.
    Leaders lead

  9. In order to further rile up this blog
    – make them rent from Hertz
    – make them stay at Airbnb
    – unions!

  10. Of course, conservatives should rejoice at the notion of defending the borders. Conservatives “own” this issue. Conservatives should be outraged by such statements by the air marshal’s “association”. If conservative are NOT outraged, something’s wrong. Four years ago, the headline would have read “Air Marshals Defy Trump Order To Defend Border.” Conservatives should be supporting (whoever the President is) on this one.

  11. As Leigh indicated above, maybe the morons in the current administration should have hired 87,000 new customs and border protection officers instead of worthless armed IRS agents. Or better yet, deploy the military.

  12. A couple of years ago in November, while on an AA flight from LAX to HNL, my wife and her sister were bumped from first class to literally the last seat at the back of the plane to make room for 2 air marshals. IIRC, AA offered them a stinking $250 voucher. I’m quite sure that those air Marshall’s absolutely positively needed to be in HNL during Thanksgiving for matters of national security.

  13. Get back to me when we have 60 years of data on travel bloggers acting badly, including taking gratuities for favorable reviews or acting badly during award flights. If I recall, we’re only 15 years in and I think there are few incidents out there, and there are probably far fewer bloggers than there are air marshals.

    If you wait long enough and have enough participants, eventually every group will have bad actors.

  14. FAMs aren’t needed at the southern border. The number being considered for deployment to the southern border are so few that this is akin to someone trying to use a a leaky bucket to try to drain the sinking Titanic and stop it from sinking.

    What the USG should do is massively scale down the FAMs headcount and do it the straight way.

  15. Good it’s not their job to protect the border. That’s the border patrols.


    Not shocking leftist america haters wants to take us back pre-911 your kind probably thing America deserved it.

  16. Democrats want an open border. Their entire strategy for the last 40 years has been to import more and more poor people from impoverished nations then throw money at them in the hopes of gaining new voters. They themselves admit it over and over again with their “demographics are destiny” talk. Once someone has been here a few generations they abandon the party of grievances and pedophiles (democrat party). This last election showed that Hispanic people are no longer their safe voter groups they once hoped. Must be something about grooming in schools that turns off traditional catholic family voters.

  17. Chad, since you bring up pedophiles and family values, are you at all aware of GOP members who have been exposed as pedophiles? Those who live in glass houses . . .

  18. Chad’s Lord Trump was “partying” buddies with the notorious Jeffrey Epstein in Florida and elsewhere. And unlike Trump’s buddy Clinton, he didn’t have Secret Service to sort of act as a check on the worst of the “sexual” excesses while “partying”.

    And Chad’s favorite hanging chad state denizen deSantis is suspected as having been “flirting” and “partying” with his own underage teenage students plied with alcohol and who knows what else at those “special parties” while promising to put in a good word for them in college applications as a Yalie.

  19. When DHS sent their “surge force” to NY and NJ during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy Air Marshall’s had no problem volunteering leaving planes behind. In fact I remember a number of them sitting around and fairly pickled during that tour.

  20. @ Chad

    “Hispanic people…Must be something about grooming in schools that turns off traditional catholic family voters.”

    Small problem for your small dick world view.

    On my recent visit to the USA, EVERY hospitality worker from airport lounge staff, to local bars, to upmarket hotels / restaurants were Hispanic. Clue – they were working. Doing their f–king part for the community. All of them provided exceptional service.

    Your hatred and racism is utterly foul. You are a very sad excuse for a human being.

  21. @ Chad

    ” your kind probably thing America deserved it.”

    When you murder an estimated 400,000 innocent civilians when your dumbfcuk idiot right wing president engages in an illegal war on a totally fabricated premise of WMDs, yes, you gormless and utterly brainless twit, you can expect some consequences for your stupidity.


  22. @ Chas

    “the above statement is faulty reasoning, Gary.”

    Yes, Chas.

    But the logical fallacy is even more immediate.

    Dumbf-cks, like @ Gary, and most of his readers herein, ignore any estimates on deterrence.

    They cite issues without reference to the population size.

    Show us the full data.

    Way too smart for the majority who read VFTW.

  23. @ Kimberly Chandler

    “But only a fool believes that nothing can happen in the air, and they are as necessary today, as they were right after 9/11.”

    Yes, but now the threat is from within (let alone the carnage and mass murder the US has visited upon foreign countries). You only need to read some of the comments on this very travel blog to get the picture.

  24. @ GUWonder

    “…deSantis is suspected as having been “flirting” and “partying” with his own underage teenage students plied with alcohol and who knows what else at those “special parties” while promising to put in a good word for them in college applications as a Yalie…”

    But surely you miss the point.

    Not if they were gay, transgender or Hispanic, or whatever group that @ Chad hates in his DWRA brainwashed perceptions of stuff.

    Abusing drunk teenage girls is absolutely OK, it’s not a mental illness, rather a right of passage for right wing twats, no? The orange soufflé can fondle women’s privates and make such behavior heroic.

    Such normalises abuse.

    But don’t tell @ Chad. He’s still trying to work out why he’s never been laid.

  25. @ Tim Dunn

    “Leaders lead”

    But not the Donald Duckweed.

    The only question, now, is whether your GOPtwats go mainstream or go nuke-the-constitution mental.

    deSantwit unfortunately is just another far right twat, which may explain why certain GOPstopper rightists are silent on this blog at this time.

    Sad stuff (if you are a DRWA – which you are – sadly, whilst respecting your posts on aviation matters).

  26. platy
    why the continued fixation on Trump?
    He isn’t the President.
    Meanwhile the present one has never been to the border nor has his VP.
    Leaders lead and the actual occupant of 1600 PA ave isn’t going to win telling government employees to do a job that he should be doing.

  27. This thread just confirms my choice to spend time elsewhere than this blog was a good one. Worth monitoring for the occasional nugget, worthless for useful discussion.

  28. Once again “ GU Wonder “ and his posse wander off the subject at hand and get lost in they’re delusional view of the past.

    Saying air Marshall’s are ineffective due to they’re not stopping any hijackings is like saying a banks security system is no longer needed because the bank has not been robbed. It is a deterrent plain and simple. If it costs too much put in security guards instead to deal with the greater threat which is all of the recent air rage incidents. The larger the organization the more likely you are to have bad actors. It’s the law of averages.

  29. I know 2 AMs and their narcissist aholes.! They discuss their job as if their king of the plane when really their just the court jester.

  30. I remember a time when liberals / Democrats had good ideas and spoke well. It’s a shame they’ve digressed so badly. Now all they can do is attack someone with opposing views, using regurgitated mainstream media “facts” as their proof. No wonder this country is going to $hi+. I wish Norway was warmer…

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