By JACK NICAS
The Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday it would soon allow fliers to carry certain smaller knives onto airplanes, one of the biggest moves to scale back the stringent airport-security measures established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Beginning April 25, the TSA will allow fliers to bring knives aboard with blades no longer than 2.36 inches and no wider than half an inch. The permitted knives—which can’t have molded handles, fixed blades or blades that lock in place—are similar to Swiss Army-style pocket knives or wine openers with small blades.
The change is intended to streamline security by reducing “the time spent rescreening and searching bags for these prohibited items,” TSA spokesman David Castelveter said.
The TSA said that, on average, passengers leave about 850 pounds a month of prohibited items at a typical large airport, with knives accounting for half that weight.
Flight-attendants unions blasted the move, saying that it will make TSA agents’ jobs easier while endangering attendants.
“This is a step back in time by allowing weapons on-board aircraft,” said Veda Shook, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. In addition to being a potential weapon for terrorists, she said, “if someone gets inebriated on board, then these knives can be wielded as a weapon.”
Ms. Shook also said the change could add more confusion to the airport-security screening process by encouraging some passengers to bring knives, even though not all are permitted.
Razor blades and box cutters, used to hijack planes during the Sept. 11 attacks, remain banned. Mr. Castelveter of the TSA said there is too much “emotion” associated with those items to remove them from the prohibited list.
Mr. Castelveter said fliers “are bringing [knives] today anyway and they’re being surrendered. Now they’ll be able to keep them.” He said the change is in line with the related standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which sets aviation-safety protocols that are followed around the world.
The move is part of the TSA’s strategy to shift toward a more targeted, risk-based approach to security, relying more on data and intelligence than on blanket bans. The TSA has recently introduced a pre-check program that allows select frequent fliers to go through faster, easier airport screenings.
The agency also now allows some children to leave their shoes on during screenings, and in recent years, the TSA removed cigarette lighters and nail clippers from the prohibited-items list.
On April 25, the TSA also will begin allowing fliers to carry ski poles, pool cues, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, Wiffle Ball bats and up to two golf clubs through security checkpoints. The TSA will also allow bats that are shorter than two feet and lighter than 24 ounces, such as souvenir or novelty bats.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the TSA has required hardened cockpit doors, added federal air marshals to more flights and authorized some pilots to carry weapons.