Author: Ted Reed, Contributor
The Transportation Security Administration, acknowledging pressure from a bevy of interest group led by flight attendants unions, has abandoned its efforts to allow small knives on airplanes. The plan had been set for implementation this month.
“After extensive engagement with the Aviation Security Administration, law enforcement officials, passenger advocates and other important stakeholders, TSA will continue to enforce the current prohibited items list,” the agency said Wednesday, in a prepared statement.
By the time the plan was eliminated, it had accumulated an extremely long list of opponents, including members of Congress, Sept. 11th victim advocates, the airline industry, and five unions representing flight attendants. They include the Association of Flight Attendants, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the International Association of Machinists, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Transport Workers Union were early movers in the opposition.
“Thirty-eight minutes after the TSA administration announced this on March 5, we announced our vehement opposition and we haven’t stopped for one moment,” said Sara Nelson, AFA international vice president. “The coalition worked with congressional leaders, put together a legal team and (arranged) demonstrations at airports.
“It was a group effort, with pressure from all sides,” Nelson said.
Originally, implementation of the policy was set for April 25, but the plan encountered unanticipated opposition from flight attendants and from airlines including Delta and US Airways, whose CEOs spoke out early.
The proposed change in TSA policy reflects a risk-based approach, which has included efforts to enable quicker screening for those least likely to be terrorists as well as a focus on non-metallic bombs, which Administrator John Pistole views as the greatest threat to aviation security. Pistole has said that airport screeners will have more time to look for non-metallic bombs if they spend less time looking for objects that will no longer be banned: small knives that don’t lock as well as other sports items including toy baseball bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and golf clubs.
“All the intelligence chatter is terrorists are committed to blowing up either a U.S.-bound plane or get on a plane here at one of 450 airports and say, ‘You can’t stop us,’ ” Pistole told The Philadelphia Inquirer in May. ”It comes down to making sure we find explosives and not be distracted by other things.” The TSA confiscates 2,000 knives a day at airports.
Pistole briefed various stakeholders on the plan in November. He received the benefit of the doubt because he has built good will in trying to overcome the TSA’s principal problem, which is that of the 800 million U.S passengers who fly annually, only a tiny fraction of 1% are potential terrorists. But intense opposition to allowing small knives, which was not initially clear, grew rapidly.
APFA President Laura Glading praised Pistole in a prepared statement Wednesday, noting “On behalf of the 16,000 members of the APFA, I thank John Pistole for his thoughtful decision. Passenger safety is every flight attendant’s top priority and we are pleased to learn that TSA agrees with our approach.”
Glading noted the broad engagement in the coalition opposed to allowing knives. “Today’s announcement proves what we can accomplish when we work together,” she said.