When a growing chorus of front-line professionals in the airline industry protest new rules permitting the reintroduction of potentially dangerous items, including knives, on board commercial aircraft, the Transportation Security Administration should take notice. The agency should reverse its decision that poses a needless safety risk for both flight crews and the traveling public. Even before the 9/11 terrorist attacks in which hijackers used box cutters to overcome flight crews, there was never any good reason for passengers to board a plane with a knife in their possession. It makes even less sense now.
Under the new TSA plan, effective April 25, passengers could board their flights with such items as small novelty baseball bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey and lacrosse sticks and up to two golf clubs. But even more jarring, passengers could also keep in their possession fold-up knives that are no more than 2.36 inches long and a half-inch wide. Corkscrews and screwdrivers would also be allowed. It is no small comfort that box cutters are still prohibited. And in cabins already packed with carry-on luggage as passengers try to avoid checked baggage fees, harried travelers would also have to contend with overhead storage bins packed with sports equipment.
In a rare display of labor-management unity, Delta CEO Richard Anderson has joined forces with flight attendant and pilot unions decrying the new TSA rules. Federal air marshals and insurance carriers also have implored the TSA to reconsider allowing items that could be used to violently disrupt flights. This not simply a matter of preventing an in-flight terrorist attack. Flight attendants who must often confront unruly or intoxicated passengers should not also have to worry they might be assaulted with a knife, or a mini-baseball bat, or a niblick.
The TSA action even managed to elicit bipartisan agreement in Washington. Republican Rep. Peter King of New York, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, and New York's senior Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer have both called on the TSA to rescind the new rules.
TSA has defended the decision as part of the agency's "risk-based approach" to security and to align with international standards. But a knife, no matter how short, and items such as hockey sticks, still hold the potential to be used as weapons at 35,000 feet. Flight attendants know that and the TSA should too.