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Changes to airline knife, bat ban delayed

WASHINGTON -- Airline passengers will have to leave their knives at home after all. And their bats and golf clubs.

A policy change scheduled to go into effect this week that would have allowed passengers to carry small knives and bats and other sports equipment onto airliners will be delayed, federal officials said yesterday.

The delay is necessary to accommodate feedback from an advisory committee made up of aviation industry, consumer and law enforcement officials, the Transportation Security Administration said in a brief statement. The statement said the delay is temporary, but gave no indication how long it might be.

TSA Administrator John Pistole proposed the policy change last month, saying it would free up the agency to concentrate on protecting against greater threats. TSA screeners confiscate about 2,000 small folding knives from passengers every day.

The proposal immediately drew fierce opposition from flight attendant unions and federal air marshals, who said the knives can be dangerous in the hands of the wrong passengers. Some airlines and members of Congress also urged TSA to reconsider its position.

A coalition of unions representing 90,000 flight attendants nationwide said yesterday the announced delay doesn't go far enough. "All knives should be banned from planes permanently," the group said in a statement.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who opposed the policy, said TSA's decision is an admission "that permitting knives on planes is a bad idea." He also called for a permanent ban.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), another opponent, said he will continue to push TSA to drop the proposal entirely.

The proposed policy would have permitted folding knives with blades 2.36 inches or less in length and less than a half-inch wide. The policy was aimed at allowing passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other small knives.

Passengers also would have been allowed to take onboard as part of their carry-on luggage novelty-sized baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs, the agency said.

The proposal didn't affect box cutters, razor blades and knives that don't fold, which are prohibited. Small knives were banned after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in which some terrorists used box cutters to intimidate passengers and crew.

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