Source: New York Times
Author: Jad Mouawad
Facing strong opposition from flight attendants and lawmakers, the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday that it was abandoning a plan to allow passengers to carry small knives on board.
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The proposal would have loosened some of the restrictions created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. John S. Pistole, the agency’s administrator, argued that the plan would allow airport security agents to focus on “higher threat” items. Looking for small pocketknives that pose little threat to an airliner, he said, was time-consuming and potentially distracting to agents looking for explosives that can bring down a plane, for instance.
But as soon as it was proposed, the plan stirred an outcry among flight attendants, who saw it as a danger to crew and passengers. Since the terror attacks more than a decade ago, airplane cockpits have been reinforced, and they remain locked during flight.
Other items that will remain banned in the airline cabin include sports equipment like lacrosse and hockey sticks, pool cues and ski poles, as well as golf clubs.
The T.S.A.’s proposal, first outlined in March, was supposed to take effect on April 25 but had been delayed in the face of vocal criticism and legal challenges. Lawmakers in Congress said they would introduce legislation banning small knives if the rule went into effect.
The Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, which had pressed the agency to change course, welcomed the decision.
“The result is better security policy and the assurance that our nation’s aviation security system continues to be vigilant for knives that could be used in a terrorist attack or criminal act against passengers or crew,” the union said in a statement.
The T.S.A. has said that its agents confiscate about 2,000 small folding knives a day. The agency wanted to let passengers keep pocketknives with foldable blades shorter than 2.36 inches long and 0.5 inches wide. Knives with a locking or fixed blade, or those with a molded grip, would still have been prohibited.
The agency has introduced new programs that allow some frequent fliers to go through special safety lines at designated airports if they have been cleared in advance. Some of its policies have been criticized over opening the door to racial profiling, which is prohibited by law.