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New TSA knife policy angers flight attendants

An array of pocket knives now allowed on board planes by the Transportation Security Administration.

Girl Scouts and Wiffle Ball players may be happy about the Transportation Security Administration's big announcement this week that, starting in late April, passengers will be allowed to carry small pocket knives and certain sports equipment on to planes, after those objects were banned in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But flight attendants are decidedly unhappy about the announcement. 

“It’s a bad idea,” says Veda Shook, President of the Association of Flight Attendants. She says under the new rules, which would allow knives less than 2.36 inches long and a half inch wide, a passenger could still “do some serious damage.” Shook, who is a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines, also questions the need for the rule change. “It's not like there's this outcry to bring knives on board,” she says. 

The TSA declined an interview, but issued a statement saying the new rules will allow them to "better focus their efforts on finding higher threat items such as explosives."

That logic makes sense to Doug Laird, an airport security consultant and former director of security for Northwest Airlines. 

“You can’t protect against everything,” Laird says. “I would much rather see the TSA trying to find the components of IED's than worrying about looking for a Swiss Army Knife.”

Still, flight attendants are taking their case to Capitol Hill, and have the support of federal air marshal and law enforcement groups. 

As for the Wiffle Ball bats, Flight Attendant Association president Shook says she isn’t concerned with bringing them back in to the plane cabin -- unless, she jokes, she had to “actually hit a Wiffle Ball with one.” But Shook objects to lumping a lightweight plastic bat into the same category as something she worries could be used as a weapon against flight attendants and passengers. 

“It’s a distraction,” Shook says, “intended to take our eye off the blades that are coming back on board.”


See the TSA's new guidelines in the slides below (via TSA):

 

 

 

 

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.
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