Knives on a plane? Really?

Story highlights

  • The latest TSA move to allow some knives and sports equipment is causing a furor
  • Flight attendants have created petitions demanding the TSA reverse its policy
  • Security experts say the policy doesn't address the need to evaluate travelers, not things
Whenever the U.S. Transportation Security Administration changes the way it screens passengers, it's bound to cause a stir.
This time is no different.
The TSA's move this week to allow small pocket knives on airplanes has generated a storm of criticism and concern among aviation professionals and passengers alike. Critics are outraged by a new rule that will allow knives with very short blades onto aircraft. The agency says it believes knives cannot be used to hijack planes because of strengthened cockpit doors and more passenger awareness.
"This policy reversal is against the best interest of the security of crew and passengers in the aircraft cabin and we will stop at nothing to fight it," said the Flight Attendants Union Coalition, in a press statement issued Thursday announcing its campaign to reverse the TSA's decision.
The coalition represents nearly 90,000 unionized flight attendants at carriers across the country.
Former flight attendant Tiffany Hawk is "stupefied" by the TSA's decision to allow knives "especially since the process that turns checkpoints into maddening logjams -- removing shoes, liquids and computers -- remains unchanged," she wrote in an opinion column for CNN.
Under the new rules, knives with blades that are 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) or shorter and less than a 1/2 inch wide will be allowed in airline cabins as long as the blade is not fixed or does not lock into place. Razor blades and box cutters are still prohibited.
The rules also allow passengers to carry two golf clubs, toy bats or other sports sticks -- such as ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and pool cues -- aboard in carry-on luggage.
TSA chief John Pistole said the changes, which will take effect April 25 and will bring the United States into alignment with international rules, are in keeping with his "risk-based security" approach.
Putting less focus on these items will permit airport screeners to focus on looking for bomb components, which present a greater threat to aircraft.
New rule doesn't go far enough, former chief says
Sharp objects can no longer bring down aircraft, former TSA chief Kip Hawley told CNN, and the search for knives interferes with the search for objects that can threaten aircraft.
"They ought to let everything on that is sharp and pointy. Battle axes, machetes ... bring anything you want that is pointy and sharp because while you may be able to commit an act of violence, you will not be able to take over the plane. It is as simple as that," said Hawley, who oversaw the TSA from mid-2005 through early 2009.