United Flight Delayed to Remove Drunk Air Marshal

There were four air marshals onboard a United flight from London Heathrow to Los Angeles and the flight’s captain smelled alcohol on one of them.

Cops were told he “stank of booze” by the captain of the flight to the US.

The marshal — carrying a concealed loaded weapon — was taken to the airport’s nick and breathalysed.

…Scotland Yard confirmed: “Police were called at 12.25pm on Monday following concerns from the captain that a person trying to board was under the influence of alcohol.

…“He was arrested on suspicion of being over the prescribed limit but released shortly after with no further action.”

The air marshal was released because while he was violating marshal service policy (either by drinking within four hours of the flight or having alcohol in his system while on duty) he hadn’t actually broken UK law.

None of this should be surprising, of course, since the Federal Air Marshal Service is supervised by the TSA, and has a tremendous history of causing more problems than they prevent.

There was the air marshal who sued because he was denied his onboard meal choice, and the one who left his loaded gun in the bathroom. (Another left a handgun in an airplane lavatory, it was discovered by a teenager.)

Then there was the one who pulled his service weapon on two civilians in a parking space dispute at New York JFK.

    Liam Neeson in 2014 film “Non-Stop”

They scheduled work assignments to facilitate vacations and sexual trysts. Which is fine because they’re insufficiently trained to do much even if something did happen on their watch.

There was the one who tried to hire a hit man to kill his wife, the one who smuggled cocaine, and the one who sexually abused a young boy.

There have been more air marshals arrested than people arrested by air marshals and we’re spending ~ $200 million per arrest. On the other hand air marshals were arrested 148 times between 2002 and 2012 and there have been over 5000 reported incidents of misconduct.

Air travel is extremely safe despite air marshals not because of them.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Even if Air Marshals did improve safety having FOUR on one flight is a huge waste of tax dollars. Sounds like they just wanted to go party in London.

  2. “None of this should be surprising, of course, since the Federal Air Marshal Service is supervised by the TSA, and has a tremendous history of causing more problems than they prevent.”

    With respect Gary, you have no idea if what you assert is true….

    I suspect the TSA has done some things that may even outweigh the hassle.

  3. Have air marshals had any effect on air travel other than bumping premium passengers out of their seats (often forcing a downgrade)?

  4. This line of commentary — without ever offering an alternative — is tiring.

  5. @Mark – In case it wasn’t obvious enough, I think by Gary’s last line “Air travel is extremely safe despite air marshals not because of them”, it is readily apparent that he is suggesting we save the massive amount of tax dollars being wasted on this program and cease it’s existence. If they are really creating more problems than they are solving (at a huge tax payer cost), then simply getting rid of air marshals is an obvious choice.

  6. @Mark I have offered alternatives consistently, you just choose to ignore them. Your incessant whining — without offering anything of value — is tiring.

  7. Thank you Gary for continuing to shine the spotlight on the ongoing incompetence of the TSA.

  8. That’s really funny.
    More FAM got arrested for crimes than the actual criminals.
    Not to mention, they caught ZERO TERRORIST so far.

  9. While I support the idea of air Marshall’s I doubt the US government can provide adequent protection like they don’t for healthcare, unborn children or the poor.

  10. @bigbirdwithsilverwings examples?

    @Mark oversight by an empowered civilian committee would be one alternative, failing that an Internal Affairs-like department.

  11. Always remember this, tsa, dhs and fma are bush legacy. Aka fake conservatives. Aka compassionate conservative and neo con. Aka racist scum that pretends to be concerned about others but is only concerned about making more money at the expense of everyone else.

    What a hoot to see conservatives lining up to speak ill about tsa. Did you hear the one about AL qaida being concerned about American quality of life? Yup, AL qaida would be more believable.

    That said I do agree with most posters. I think the risk/reward is just way too skewed. Iif we would be willing for a few hundred loss of lives every year, we could save a lot of money. A few hundred lives when so many die of overdose, road accidents and suicides is not a bad trade off to save hundred of billions.

  12. Talk about a program that has outlived its usefulness. The likelihood they will ever accomplish anything to protect the public is minimal, given the redundancy of what they do, the inaccessibility (to any potential terrorist) of the cockpit, and the certainty that any terrorist would be overwhelmed by the passengers.

    It’s a big waste of money that could be used for other needs in society or to reduce the deficit.

  13. I agree with all of the criticism, but would point out that each story that comes out about an air marshall doing something stupid is essentially a megaphone announcing, “ya, there are armed dudes on airplanes, sometimes even 4 of them.” That’s what I would be noticing if I were a bad guy thinking about attempting a plane takeover with a plastic butter knife. So while they may cause issues, their very existence provides a major unknown to would be attackers. It is kinda like the bystander effect working in our favor. Like when someone is being attacked in the street and nobody goes to help them because they are afraid the attacker might have a gun.

  14. I worked for TSA as an Air Marshal for over a decade. With that said that agency is a complete waist of the tax payers money. These airline chair commanders get paid over $100,000 a year to do nothing but travel around the world. It’s true that in over the 15 years the agency has been going that more Air Marshals have been arrested than who they actually arrested. DUI’s, domestic abuse, fleeing law enforcement during a traffic stop, selling and moving drugs while on duty, pulling a firearm on a civilian over a parking space, shooting at someone and not reporting it, etc. There are also other issues that happen behind the scene that the public is unaware of; for example, purchasing prescription medications is South America and sneaking them back into the US, purchasing prostituites over seas, sleeping with any women who has a pulse (most of these guys are married), etc. The Air Marshal program should be disbanded and its entire work force placed into a true legacy law enforcement agency where they can actually do some good. Sitting all day on a plane is a complete waist of my tax dollars.

  15. @Kevin Spoken like a true BP Refugee! I knew a LOT of guys that went over to AM from BP due to being stuck in crappy places where they were stationed and almost all I ever spoke to after told me what a complete mess it was and a waste (not waist) of time. I was tempted to, just to get out of south Texas but am glad I didn’t despite my love of travel. The overtime stories, supervisor abuse, etc, were horrifying and that is from a guy whose agency wasn’t exactly squared away either!

  16. Every law enforcement agency has its bad apples but Air Marshals protect thousands of flights per day.

    Have you people ever thought that the reason flights have not been compromised or arrests made is because the program is working? It’s keeping these cowards off our aircraft.

    I am glad they are out there regardless of the issues they sometimes create. We can’t afford another 9/11 or any other similar event. The repercussions of any type of attack in the air would be devastating.

    At least that layer of defense is out there than not prior to 9/11. These jihadist cowards still want to kill Americans and bringing down an airliner is a great prize for their sick murderous cause. Well worth the upgraded seat some cry about.

    The author tends to focus on the bad apples and does not consider the fact that out of the hundreds of thousands of flights since 9/11 not one has had a successful 9/11 style of attack occur.

    No I am not an Air Marshal but I do work in the industry they protect.

    My opinion.

  17. It would be “waste” not “waist”…and thank goodness you’re no longer with the FAMS, I wouldn’t trust you with my life! Remember these people are human…the severe effects that job has on their physical health is only one aspect of what they deal with! Extreme sleep deprivation, forced moves, being on edge and fearful of losing their jobs. Their families rarely see them and when they’re home they might as well not be.

  18. Stop the whining, I feel safer with skymarshalls on board, if only as a deterrent.in every profesion there are bad apples, we are human and have flaws. I rather waste my tax money on that program to keep our Sky Transport safe.

  19. Have a BA in criminal justice and a MA in public administration and Counterterrorism in curious where you get your sources from? Nothing has been sighted that has significant credibility. Do you have a secret or top secret clearance where you have knowledge into their training and policy and procedures? Clearly this is all assumption. You say you are a professional in travel when these guys have traveled ten times as much as you. The sky marshal program established in 1964 was barrated and hacked down until there were only 33 when 9/11 happened because of people like you. Then you ask “where were the people to stop the hijackers?” It’s people like you who easily forget and are impatient while terrorist groups have nothing but time on their side.
    You clearly do not comprehend the mission of security and protection and don’t understand the term “deterrent” you try to weigh it against law enforcement to weight the level of success based on the number of arrestes. Security and force protection success is NOT Measured buy the amount of arrests but by what does not happen on their flights. Based on your poorly written article you have no conception of the issue and are just another one of those poor spoiled businessman who didn’t get their upgrade because they are too cheap to buy a first class ticket. I’d suggest you either do more research before making a bigger fool of yourself.

  20. A BA and an MA and you cannot spell “BERATED” properly?

    “Nothing has been “sighted”, when it should be “cited”?

    Improper capitalization in places as well as punctuation errors?

    I wonder who is making the fool of who, here.

    I smell shenanigans, if not outright BS on your part.

    Or you’re just a chump rank and file LEO who still cannot do a proper narrative.

  21. @carl
    Isn’t suretype a bitch? Thank you Carl for the grammar lesson. That was careless of me, but is that all you have to comment on and not the case in point? What are your thoughts? Or is that all you have as a defensive measure because you agree with the article? Give me your educated insight on the issue. Or are you just an English teacher?

  22. This is almost all completely wrong. Not sure where you get this information from. A bunch of false news from unknown sources. Try taking over a plane with ten of your friends. If there are Air Marshals on board. You’re dead.

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