New Policy: Federal Air Marshals Being Moved to the Back of the Plane Starting Friday

The Federal Air Marshal Service is arguably the least competent law enforcement agency in the country. Naturally they are part of the TSA, which reportedly has a program to make sure air marshals don’t show up to the airport drunk.

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.

    Liam Neeson Was an Air Marshal in the 2014 film “Non-Stop”

Last year an air marshal left a loaded gun in the lavatory of a Delta flight. Three years ago an air marshal left a loaded gun in a Newark airport bathroom and two years ago in a Philadelphia airport restroom. In 2001 an air marshal left a handgun in an aircraft lavatory where it was found by a teenager.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Air marshals have smuggled cocaine, engaged in sex trafficking, and discharged their weapons in hotels and bars. 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.

Air marshals used to regularly take first class seats at the last minute, bumping paying passengers. My wife and I were separated in first class on our honeymoon because an air marshal chose on of our seats — getting seated back together was complicated because the rest of the cabin was occupied by just-retired Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn and her entourage.

They claimed their job was to ‘protect the cockpit’ and needed the first class seat just like when an air marshal sued for being denied his first choice of meal 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.

Air marshals though are being moved towards the back of the plane where they can see all of the passengers in front of them, instead of having their back towards supposed threats. That will also help them monitor passengers who represent no threat at all. This new policy goes into effect December 28.

[A} change to the system set to be implemented Dec. 28 will see some federal air marshals stationed towards the rear of the passenger cabin on U.S. flights. Previous policy dictated that air marshals receive seats near the front of the cabin to facilitate protection of the cockpit.

If nothing else they’ll occupy fewer of the premium seats in economy that airlines sell to passengers for an extra charge.

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. That was some preamble, as usual. I love how the point of the post is 10% as long as the introduction.

  2. For 2019, my resolution is to stop reading any article by Gary. Seriously. This is the most tabloid’esque blog of all the Boarding Area blogs. You should win an award for the most click-bait articles in 2018.

    It took you seven paragraphs in to this article to barely skim the surface of the Air Marshal update. Just, wow.

  3. Why the hell are they telling us this stuff?

    Assuming it’s not just misdirection, which I guess it could be.

  4. Live and let’s fly is far worse. That guy is a straight up self-centered click bait spewing troll!

  5. Ummmm, I work for an airline, and how would you know that the person that bumped you was an Air Marshal? Because 1. they wont ever tell you 2. if the airline employee told you that they can go to jail and a gigantic fine and to say the least loose their job. So whoever told you that was the reason highly probably made something up, and if they did not lie, then you were legally responsible to report that lapse in thought to management!

  6. I think that the TSA overall does a yeoman’s job and its employees should be given greater appreciation. It’s particularly disappointing that Gary has chosen to post such a libertarian critique at a time when TSA employees are severely impacted by the Trump government shutdown.

  7. @VaCavalier – All TSA employees will be paid. Furloughed government employees have been paid after every other shutdown. Federal Air Marshals, however, do not add security. They have created more security risks than they’ve reduced or eliminated.

  8. Air Marshalls are, sorry to say, instantly identifiable. I collect office pins from them.
    The main point is the one Gary asks: How many in-flight hijackings have they prevented? Now, confirming a negative is always easy to challenge.
    I would not object to competent security staff on board.
    The word competent is the killer…………………………..

  9. If air Marshalls were employed in the for profit corporate world , that division would be closed years ago. You do not hire a salesman if he does not bring in any sales. Airlines close if they do not make money

  10. As someone who was bumped from a premium seat for an Air Marshall, I am behind this decision 100%. Before you comment “how did I know”, the reservation agent told me that she couldn’t tell me why but that I would be ” very, very safe on the flight”. When I saw who was sitting in my seat, I didn’t feel safe, at all.

  11. End the program except for a situation where there is specific knowledge of a problem. The fortified cockpit doors solve the problem. I can see why these guys get into trouble since they have nothing useful to do.

  12. Sounds like the airlines got DHS management to do the airlines’ business just before a bunch of them are about to bail ship or be pushed out the door. KN@DHS, is your generational cohort Gary checking you out? 😀

    FAMS may make the economy class cabin experience even more miserable if the average FAM is a bit on the bigger side than the average economy class passenger. In a 3×3 configuration flight, the window seat may be your best bet for more room without being bumped by FAMs and FAs and a bunch of other passengers

  13. @Gary and @JR Roberts, would you be able to confirm that the person who bumped you, if on a single aisle plane, was seated on the second row aisle starboard side of the plane? I’ve been bumped twice for an air marshal and both times that was the seat.

  14. @controller1 It was the third row aisle seat because (I was told) I was the first person in the first three rows traveling alone.

  15. The US Air Marshal Service, like the entire TSA, is a tedious and expensive fraud which victimizes travelers daily because government is too incompetent to do its job. Enjoyed reading this article.

  16. Another great article, Gary, thanks for posting this.
    It’s simply amazing that it’s taken 17 years since 9/11 to make federal air marshals sit in the back of the plane and actually look at the passengers, instead of sitting in front seats while living large.
    High time to disband this clown posse!

  17. Sorry, the clickbait articles are most common on OMAAT. What makes it worse is Luckys sense of entitlement. See his recent clickbait piece on less service in business class.
    And while Gary and LALF do actually respond, Lucky sends his flunkies out to respond for him.

  18. You’d think for a billion dollars they could do something useful. Like stop Y pax from using the lavs up front.

  19. I don’t care if they are force to sit clear in the back, on a toilet.

    We all know how you feel about them, just spill it out!

  20. FAM are useless federal Employees that need to be FIRED by Donald Trump himself. Wasted money. 100% history of the program has proven they are useless and have done NOTHING to save anyone anywhere anytime.
    @Nate this is how I really feel. GET a real job. Walmart needs greeters and these guys have the qualifications for it. Because they have done nothing to show they have for their current job.

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