TSA 'Knives On a Plane' Policy is Nonsensical and Unsafe

On Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) expressed his distaste for changes to TSA policy on the possession of small knives on planes. Under the new rules, blades under 2.36 inches — or 6cm — will be permitted, though the ban on knives with fixed and lockable blades or molded grips would remain, in addition to the ban on box cutters and razors. Some sporting equipment such as golf clubs and hockey sticks will also be acceptable in a limited capacity. Given the minimal advantages presented to passengers, the grievances raised by the Senator and other sources are certainly convincing.

The changes to existing policy have taken place in response to an internal TSA working group that recommended changes because the items "represented no real danger." The group stated that the presence of flight attendants trained in self-defense, as well as armed air marshals and pilots, were adequate security against the items that are now allowed on flights. The TSA has suggested that this decision "aligns TSA with International Civil Aviation Organization standards and our European counterparts." TSA administrator John Pistole stated that he didn't wish for TSA agents to be delayed by the smaller blades, and that the TSA would continue to partake in "intelligence" and "risk-based security." Senator Schumer's main issues with the change in policy relate to the potential distraction faced by TSA employees, as well as danger to "the flight crew, other passengers, and even the integrity of the plane." For these reasons, he suggested that the ban should remain in place. This is a sentiment echoed by numerous sources, including Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson, who believes that there are "much more effective steps" to streamline screening. In addition, the Southwest Airlines' Flight Attendants Union suggested that the risk posed by these items was not necessarily risk to the pilot, but to passengers and staff in the cabin. 

The potential danger of these measures appears to counteract any advantage can be gleaned from them. As Schumer articulated, the process of checking to see which knives are suitable and which aren't will remove any advantage gained from the idea that allowing smaller blades will decrease delays. This "distraction" will not allow for a smooth transfer of passengers through checkpoints. Of greater concern is the potential danger it poses to passengers. While it has been said that trained staff operate on board these flights, injury or more serious consequences could certainly take place before they can interfere. While it is unlikely that the plane as a whole will be at risk, it seems baffling that risks to individual passengers would be taken for such little advantage.

As the TSA is bringing U.S. flights in line with those elsewhere in the world, it seems unlikely that they will go back on these measures. If they do, however, it will run counter to the wishes of many who serve aboard these flights.

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Dave Reed

Dave is a graduate of the University of York in the UK, holding an MA in International Political Economy. He also studied at Clarkson University in Upstate New York. Currently, Dave works in accounting and finance for Oxfam, and as Social Media Consultant for Muse Culture.

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