IF SOMETHING DOES HAPPEN:
Dealing with an event
Generally speaking, when confronted with an attacker, I do not advise resisting. In all probability, most attacks are criminally motivated and frankly, you can replace your wallet, purse, cash, or credit cards. However, in the airport (or on the plane/train/ship), it could be a more nefariously driven attack, one that represents a very real threat to your life. For example, the passengers on United Flight 93 demonstrated that individuals could respond to armed attackers, using their brains and collective will power to prevent the deaths of many others.
Give yourself a Force Multiplier “Legally”
Obviously, when traveling we know that airlines do not allow actual weapons on the planes (and many items that could not possibly be used as a weapon either). Therefore, to prepare to defend ourselves, we need to think about improvised weapons. An improvised weapon is any item, not designed as an actual weapon, which we can use for offensive or defensive purposes on short notice. Be smart about this. As noted above, there can be a fine line between legal forms of self-defense and use of tools, and illegal forms. You are responsible for knowing the laws and following them.
I will note your best weapon is always your brain, your ability to stay calm, and get those around you to help respond to a threat. Start with the fact that even if a bad event starts to happen, you are not defenseless; especially if you have thought about these issues prior to your trip. But you also have other options potentially at your disposal. Umbrellas, walking canes, fishing poles (and their carrying tubes) can all be used as striking weapons.
An aluminum or heavy plastic water bottle, especially when full or half full, can do some serious damage. I always travel with a 1.5-liter aluminum bottle, hanging from my bag with an attached carabiner (which can be used by itself as improvised knuckles). Your belt, especially if the buckle is robust, can be used as either a flailing weapon or improvised brass knuckles.
Currently many folks sell “tactical pens”, usually made of titanium with a window breaker tip on the end. Just note, these are not actually TSA approved as I recently had one confiscated at an airport. Even though you “may” get it through in your carry-on, it is still nonetheless, not approved. If you want to carry the pen while at your destination, you can always check it. But the principle of the item’s value still holds true. Almost any pen can be used as a stabbing weapon in an emergency as can a sharpened pencil (I know you aren’t John Wick, but a pencil still makes a nasty penetrating weapon).
Airline magazines and newspapers can be rolled to create thrusting weapons, (i.e. a mill wall brick). Briefcases and purses can be swung or thrown at opponents. Those same carry-ons can also potentially be used as barriers or shields to protect you from your opponents. And finally there are plenty of items in the galley that can also be used as weapons should you need them (the galley cart, full sodas, wine bottles, metal trays, etc.).