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How to Tell If an Air Marshal Is on Your Flight

In my entire flight history, there’s only been one time I was 100% sure an air marshall was on my flight.  Mostly because the air marshal identified himself during an altercation.  (It sounds more exciting than it actually was).

However, there have been times when I strongly believed there was an air marshall on my flight.  There are some signals that suggest that someone is an air marshal–signals that are not quite as telling as the air marshal literally announcing himself.

seats on an airplane

There was a whole thread of conversation on Quora about identifying air marshals.

Here are some of the signs that most people agreed upon:

1. A lot of people seem to know who he is

Is he getting a lot of slight head nods from the crew?  Do they seem happy to see him?  Chances are, he’s an air marshal, and they are glad to see him.

Of course, there’s also a chance he’s a very well-loved frequent flyer who they want to be very subtle about greeting, but those chances are lower.

2. She’s wearing clothing inappropriate for her destination

If she’s wearing a coat and headed to a warm, beach location, she’s probably not planning on spending that much time there.

Though, she could just really love that coat.

3. Start a disturbance and see who gets up to stop you

Here’s a sure-fire way to find out.  Start making a disturbance and see if anyone else besides the crew gets up and runs after you shouting, “Stop!  I’m an air marshal!”

Ultimately, if the air marshal is doing his job correctly, you shouldn’t be able to spot him on the plane.  But the items above were ones identified by frequent flyers as key giveaways.

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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10 comments

  1. wow you must be really click hungry posting such a rubbish

    • I was hoping the bridesmaids story would be re-counted, Jeanne is one I think might try to recreate that moment in real life if she was seated next to someone she thought identified as an Air Marshal. Otherwise if this is the only think you think is click bait today, you missed a lot – every headline exists purely for that purpose, to get your interest. Real click bait is when you get something off topic (click an article about a famous actress and get an ad for viagra).

      But on this topic, might I suggest you draft some articles and submit them to as a portfolio, assuming it’s worthwhile you could become a contributor to this or another travel blog, even your own! If you’re as content hungry as I am that could really help me out. Thanks!

  2. Sorry to be that guy, but the error is to egregious for someone named Marshall not to point out… It’s “Air Marshal.”

  3. I think the most important thing is to spell marshal correctly. They are not part of the Marshall service.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      Now I know, Marshal service = federal law enforcement agency. Marshall service = plumbing, heating, and cooling services. Learn something new every day!

  4. The comments are worth reading this post. I assume the air Marshal would sit in first most of the time.

    • I’ve seen who I believe to be marshals usually about 15 rows back on an aisle, not yet seen one in first – the movement from passengers from coach into first would be something they’d want to be able to observe and follow ( most of the time it’s just being blocked from the rear lav and moving forward if it’s urgent).

      I’ve always wondered what kind of luggage an air marshal brings, assuming it’s not Southwest it’d be the one guy that boards last and doesn’t have to scramble for overhead space!

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