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TSA to allow small knives, bats, clubs on planes

By Joan Lowy

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:46 a.m. HST, Mar 06, 2013

WASHINGTON >> Airline passengers will be able to carry small knives, souvenir baseball bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes beginning next month under a policy change announced Tuesday by the head of the Transportation Security Administration.

The new policy conforms U.S. security standards to international standards, and allows TSA to concentrate its energies on more serious safety threats, the agency said in a statement.

The announcement, made by TSA Administrator John Pistole at an airline industry gathering in New York, drew an immediate outcry from unions representing flight attendants and other airline workers, who said the items are still dangerous in the hands of the wrong passengers.

Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents over 10,000 flight attendants at Southwest Airlines, called the new policy "dangerous" and "shortsighted," saying it was designed to make "the lives of TSA staff easier, but not make flights safer."

"While we agree that a passenger wielding a small knife or swinging a golf club or hockey stick poses less of a threat to the pilot locked in the cockpit, these are real threats to passengers and flight attendants in the passenger cabin," the union said in a statement.

The policy change was based on a recommendation from an internal TSA working group, which decided the items represented no real danger, said David Castelveter, a spokesman for the agency.

The presence on flights of gun-carrying pilots traveling as passengers, federal air marshals and airline crew members trained in self-defense provide additional layers of security to protect against misuse of the items, he said. However, not all flights have federal air marshals or armed pilots onboard.

The new policy permits folding knives with blades that are 2.36 inches or less in length and are less than 1/2-inch wide. The policy is aimed at allowing passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other knives.

Passengers also will be allowed to bring onboard as part of their carry-on luggage novelty-sized baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs, the agency said. The policy goes into effect on April 25.

Security standards adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, already call for passengers to be able to carry those items. Those standards are non-binding, but many countries follow them.

Box cutters, razor blades and knives that don't fold or that have molded grip handles will still be prohibited, the TSA said.

The items that will be permitted under the new policy don't present any greater danger than other everyday items that passengers can turn into weapons, aviation security consultant John L. Sullivan said. A pen or a toothbrush can be sharpened into a knife like the "shivs" inmates sometimes make in prisons, he said. Some airlines have returned to using real glassware and silverware in first class, rather than plastic or paper, he noted. Glasses can be broken and used as weapons, he added.

"There are a lot of things you can use on an airplane if you are intent on hurting someone," said Sullivan, co-founder of the Welsh-Sullivan Group in Dallas. "Security is never 100 percent."

But speaking as a passenger, he said, the "last thing I need is someone getting on a plane taking up valuable space with their pool cues and hockey sticks."

Douglas Laird, a former security director at Northwest Airlines and now a security consultant, said the change was long overdue. He said security should focus more on profiling passengers and less on what they're carrying.

"After 9/11, TSA did a lot of things pretty fast without thinking it through. They have better things to do than look for a guy who's got a 2-inch knife," he said.

There has been a gradual easing of some of the security measures applied to airline passengers after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In 2005, the TSA changed its policies to allow passengers to carry on airplanes small scissors, knitting needles, tweezers, nail clippers and up to four books of matches. The move came as the agency turned its focus toward keeping explosives off planes, because intelligence officials believed that was the greatest threat to commercial aviation.

And in September 2011, the TSA no longer required children 12 years old and under to remove their shoes at airport checkpoints. The agency recently issued new guidelines for travelers 75 years old and older so they can avoid removing shoes and light jackets when they go through airport security checkpoints.


Associated Press writer Eileen Sullivan in Washington and AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.

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serious wrote:
About time!!! Guy has explosives in his underwear--shoes. It is impossible to catch everything. I always wonder about the people who clean the aircraft in an hour between flights.
on March 5,2013 | 02:25PM
dlum003 wrote:
How stupid is this?
on March 5,2013 | 02:53PM
gshilo wrote:
Now why would they want to allow this? It was fine the way it was. I don't get it.
on March 5,2013 | 02:58PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Its not like to overhead bins are not already stuffed by people trying to avoid bag fees. Now lets throw in some hockey sticks. Geez.
on March 5,2013 | 03:40PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
I want my mini-leatherman back!!
on March 5,2013 | 03:40PM
4watitsworth wrote:
I want my peanut butter back! Geez, they'll allow mini knives but will confiscate jelly and peanut butter. What's wrong with this picture?
on March 5,2013 | 04:44PM
Anonymous wrote:
whatʻs the difference between box cutters like the knives used for 9/11 and a short bladed folding buck knife? isnʻt the mission of the TSA to minimize potential danger? alqaeda and other terrorist camps are rejoicing at the possibilities. how will they focus on profiling -- do certain groups look more or less like baseball, lacrosse, hockey, golf or billiard players?
on March 5,2013 | 03:52PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Now the TSA has to measure knives and bats that people will be trying to bring onboard. This will cause more confusion and delays. What about foreign airport personnel that are checking passengers for flights coming into the U.S.? They should just leave things as is - if a person can't live with putting his/her pocket knife in his checked baggage, he should just stay at home and watch airplanes on television.
on March 5,2013 | 07:35PM
SteveToo wrote:
Don't think that any group of passengers on a plane would alow anyone to take over after 9/11. Someone may get hurt, but we won't be loosing any planes or buildings.
on March 5,2013 | 08:02PM
peanutgallery wrote:
We need to dump TSA. Just another government employee union. HOw many of those TSA people could possibley run the hundred in under 4 days?? Yup. Have another donut.
on March 6,2013 | 03:32AM
clum56 wrote:
Is the TSA department crazy, a small 1-2" pocket knife could still cause a threat to someone's life on board any flight. TSA and the Federal Gov. needs to rethink this over for the safety of everyone.
on March 6,2013 | 04:11AM
olos73 wrote:
You can take small knives, but no can take bottled water. No make sense.
on March 6,2013 | 06:51AM
Allenk wrote:
I have reservations about this. Remember the guy that was charged for assault and bit an airline crew member? Later he admitted to being on a number of prescription drugs - these are the types of individuals that do not need to have sharp objects on their person.
on March 6,2013 | 07:25AM
bsdetection wrote:
The 9/11 terrorists used box cutters, and now folding knives are permitted carry on items—but not bottled water! Time to admit that the TSA theatre is exactly that—a big show.
on March 6,2013 | 08:45AM
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