New TSA rules relax bans on pocketknives, golf clubs

New TSA regulations state that it is now New TSA regulations state that it is now permissible to bring a small knife (like this Swiss army knife) onto planes. (March 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday/ Thomas A. Ferrara

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Travelers will be allowed to take small knives, novelty-sized baseball bats and some sporting equipment such as golf clubs, ski poles and hockey sticks on airplanes starting next month.

When the new Transportation Safety Administration rules take effect April 25, the agency will focus on "higher-threat" items such as explosives that could destroy a plane, officials said.

TSA Administrator John Pistole, who announced the change at a conference in Brooklyn, said the move "aligns TSA with international standards" that allow similar items to be carried onto planes.

Pocketknives will be permitted on an airliner for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Gregg Overman, communications director for the Allied Pilots Association in Fort Worth, Texas, which represents the 10,000 pilots who fly for American Airlines, said the group wasn't consulted about the new rules and considers them "a significant step backward in aviation security."

Stacy K. Martin, president of Southwest Airlines flight attendants union, TWU 556, said the changes create a threat to passenger safety.

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"This policy was designed to make the lives of TSA staff easier, but not make flights safer," she said.

TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said in an email that "Federal Flight Deck Officers, crew members with self-defense training and Federal Air Marshals will help to ensure the safety of all crew members and passengers."

Martin said flight attendants realize a passenger wielding a small knife or swinging a golf club or hockey stick poses little threat to a pilot behind a locked cockpit door, but the threat to passengers and flight attendants is "real."

"We've got along quite well for years without knives in the environment," said Corey Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 90,000 attendants nationwide. "Airline travel is already stressful."

Flight attendants have to pay for their own self-defense training, Caldwell said.

Katie Connell, spokeswoman for Airlines for America, an airline trade group, said the industry supports the change.

"The TSA has vast experience screening billions of passengers, evaluating and determining what is appropriate and safe to be carried on aircraft," Connell said.

Knives brought onto a plane must have a blade no longer than 2.36 inches and no more than a half-inch thick.

Knives with a locking or fixed blade or a molded grip are still banned, the TSA said.

A typical Swiss Army knife and corkscrews will be allowed, but razor blades and box cutters remain prohibited.

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Sporting equipment to be permitted as carry-on items also includes lacrosse sticks, pool cues and no more than two golf clubs at a time. Bats measuring less than 24 inches will also be allowed.

At LaGuardia Airport, travelers said they favored a common-sense approach to security screening, but some were uneasy about lifting the ban on some knives.

"If you can't bring anything like soap or mouthwash, why should you be able to bring a blade?" asked Sean Conlin, 26, of northern New Jersey, who was traveling to Denver.

Chris Mosier, of Manhattan, said travelers are already accustomed to leaving pocket knives behind, so there was no need to lift the ban.

"I don't think there's a good reason to have a pocket knives" on planes, said Mosier, 45, a photographer flying to Miami.

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But Halah Zureikat, of Amman, Jordan, said she appreciated the government showing more trust in passengers.

Zureikat, 52, who was going to Detroit to visit family, said she was visiting New York during the Sept. 11 attacks and understands the need for increased airport security since then.

"But sometimes you feel like it's keeping people from traveling," she said, adding that she never understood the ban on some sporting goods, which are "only for sports, not for harming people."

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