The New Airline Security Tool


  1. Duct tape has taken off as the go-to for airplane flight security where it is absolutely essential that a passenger be restrained.
  2. In just the past month alone, at least a couple of scenarios warranted the use of duct tape to secure out-of-control passengers to their seats.
  3. There may be a clue to the mystery of the seemingly recent use of duct tape onboard an passenger aircraft.

American Airlines reported this week Tuesday that about an hour after take-off on a flight from Maui to Los Angeles, the airplane had to be diverted to Honolulu after a 13-year-old boy became disruptive.

Witnesses say the boy tried to kick out a window next to his seat and also became physical with his own mother. Tensions started rising about an hour into the flight, causing the pilot to turn the plane around.

The airline says flex cuffs were used to restrain the boy, but video also showed a flight attendant duct taping him to his seat.

The flight landed safely, and passengers were put on other flights or given hotel rooms.

Duct Tape: The New Flight Safety Norm

Somehow, duct tape has taken off as the go-to for airplane flight security where it is absolutely essential that a passenger be restrained for the safety of every other soul onboard. It doesn’t cost hardly anything, is easily stored onboard without taking up any critical space, and it’s strong. Strong enough to keep someone seated – and if need, be quiet – during the duration of the remainder of the flight.

On a comical side note, in the movie Sister Act 2, one of the students in the choral competition, Frankie, shows Sister Mary Patrick his broken zippered robe and says, “This thing ripped! Now what am I supposed to do, huh?” Sister Mary Patrick calmly answers: “Listen, don’t fret. My mother used to say that nothing is impossible as long as you carry with you a little bit of faith and a big roll of electrical tape.” She then whips out a roll of silver duct tape from her habit and pulls off a big stretch of tape as she says, “Hello!”

Recent Duct Tape Incidents

Let’s look back at a couple of the most recent mid-air incidents that ended safely and securely all due to the magical roll of silver duct tape.

On July 12, a woman on an American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Charlotte was first duct taped at the wrists and feet and then subsequently to her chair, when that was not enough to subdue her after she tried to open a door on the aircraft because she didn’t want it to go up anymore. Flight attendants one of which was also bitten tackled her to maintain the safety of the 190 passengers on board.

On August 3, it was reported that Maxwell Berry, a 22-year-old Ohio man, allegedly groped the breasts of 2 flight attendants during a Frontier Airlines flight and punched a third. The flight attendants duct-taped him to his seat for the rest of the trip from Philadelphia to Miami. Berry was arrested by police upon landing on 3 counts of battery. FBI agents at the scene said they would not pursue federal felony charges.

According to Frontier, the flight attendants will face their own consequences, although it is not clear for what. All the airline had to say at the time was: “The flight attendants will be, as required in such circumstances, relieved of flying, pending completion of an investigation.”

A Clue to the Origins of the Duct Tape Mystery

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents Frontier’s flight attendants, wholeheartedly supported the actions of the crew. The union president, Sara Nelson, said the crew “was forced to restrain the passenger with the tools available to them onboard.”

According to the union, the airline provides tape to the crew in case they need to restrain a passenger. Frontier did not answer questions about that.

According to a professor of aviation management at Metropolitan State University of Denver, Jeff Price, it is “common to use duct tape to secure a person who represents a threat to the flight or others.” He explained that some flights have other restraints on board, such as flex cuffs, and said he carries both when he flies “for just such an occasion.”

So it seems logical to assume that some airlines have quietly “installed” rolls of duct tape in their flight service arsenal to keep calm and safety under control while 36,000 miles up. I would suspect that there aren’t many, if any, passengers that would object to that.

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