TSA To Allow Small Knives on Airplanes, and I’m Glad

Beginning on April 25, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is doing something that you don’t often see; it is loosening restrictions on what you can bring through security. Shock! Horror! What is now being permitted, small knives among other things, has caused an uproar in some groups. Personally, I like this kind of move. We need more changes like this one.

TSA Thinks It Isn't a Knife

Unfortunately, the new rules will not allow you to bring liquids over 3 oz on to an airplane. That horrendous rule continues to inflict pain on all travelers, all in the supposed name of security. (That being said, the European Union (EU) is again making rumblings about changing that.) Instead, this rule will now allow the following to pass through security:

  • Small knives with non-locking blades smaller than 2.36 inches and less than 1/2 inch in width
  • Small novelty bats and toy bats
  • Ski poles
  • Hockey sticks
  • Lacrosse sticks
  • Billiard cues
  • Golf clubs (limit two)

I think we can all agree that the allowance of billiard cues through security is the really important change here. I mean, how many times have you arrived at the airport with your billiard cue, only to remember that you can’t bring it through? That’s the worst.

No, of course the knife is the big thing here. So does this mean that terrorists can come on with knives and crash airplanes? Well, in theory, I suppose. But let’s be realistic here. The knives that we’re talking about have to be non-locking and have blades that are pretty tiny. This will effectively allow people to bring their Swiss Army knives on the airplane. Considering how useful those are and how many people carry them, this should make life easier for a lot of people. I can’t even imagine how many have been thrown away at checkpoints in the last decade.

But couldn’t a terrorist bring that knife on? Sure. But if someone is a terrorist and he’s relying on a Swiss Army knife to commandeer an airplane, I’m going to guess he’s not the best terrorist around. That can hurt someone, but it’s not hard to subdue someone with just a tiny knife. We’re only talking about a 2.36 inch blade here. And there are plenty of other objects that can be brought onboard today that can do worse damage. (Last time I checked, letter openers weren’t banned.)

Brief sidebar here – why the heck is the limit 2.36 inches? That’s the same as 6 centimeters and it now aligns with the rules in the EU. Damn them and their metric system. Now back to the post.

The other rules seem largely inconsequential to me. Even if you can bring a hockey stick through, good luck getting that to fit in the bag sizer. Even if the TSA allows these things, that doesn’t mean the airline will. All this means is that the TSA is ceding that responsibility to the airline, because it’s not a security issue.

In the end, you have to weigh the potential threat of these objects with the pain inflicted upon all other travelers. In this case, it seems quite right to say that the pain saved by allowing these will outweigh the potential for harm. There has been a lot of disagreement on this, of course, and flight attendants have been leading the charge. (You can listen to some back and forth here.)

For me, however, this specific move isn’t a big deal. I don’t carry any of those things. But it tells me that the TSA is getting smarter about how it designs security, so there is at least a minor hope that they’ll work to fix the real pain-points. The day that I can bring a full bottle of water from home on to an airplane will be proof that the TSA is doing things right. Consider this an appetizer, I suppose.

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52 Comments on "TSA To Allow Small Knives on Airplanes, and I’m Glad"

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Jorg
Guest
First of all a small comment: damn you Americans being the _only_ industrialized country to still use the imperial system :-))) Furthermore: great to see that even the TSA is easing up a bit. Here in Europe we’re very happy with the proposed changes in liquor limitations. It seems like the world is finally realizing that some things really don’t matter. It’s like when I was in Berlin and I had to dismantle my Zippo because it could be a threat… By the time I could light a chair (or something else), I’m sure the whole plane would have me… Read more »
Bravenav
Guest

The US uses the US measurement system, not the Imperial system. The US system is similar to, but older than, the British Imperial System (for example the Imperial gallon is larger than a US gallon) The US was actually one of the earliest nations to standardized their measurement system.

A
Guest

Damn you the rest of the world for being too confused by US Weights and measures. The foot for example is very anthropmetric in scale while a meter is an arbitrary unit of measure that has not point of reference. Also the farenheight scale gives much more unit points in the temperatures in which we life in. Oh how I hate when the weatherman says it’s 22c here and 30c there. That’s a big difference in personal comfort for 8 meager degrees. Metric is brain dead simple but it doesn’t have any personality.

Jorg
Guest
Honestly: should the whole world use a system that only one country feels happy with? The foot is just as arbitrary as the meter and was even worse: originally the foot had different sizes in different countries. At least the meter has always been a meter. Please don’t tell me you think it’s easier to have: – 12 pica is one inch – 12 inch is one foot – 3 feet is one yard – 5280 ft or 1760 yd is one mile Thank god for Wikipedia. Then let’s go to the other system: – 10 cm is a decimeter… Read more »
Kris
Guest
Haha, that’s silly. Not every person has the same size foot, so the measurement is hardly anthropmetric. All units of measurement are arbitrary — we simply become so used to them that they no longer seem that way. How do you know how long a mile is when traveling? Because you’ve done it a million times; you have a sense of it. You don’t think, “Hmm, I’ve gone 5,280 feet by now.” You think, “Hmm, I can tell that it’s probably been about a mile.” It’s the same with kilometers for someone used to them. And to someone accustomed to… Read more »
Neil
Guest

I can’t help laughing at the uproar. How many times have I been upgraded, only to see a metal knife on my tray? Or a metal fork? Those have been okay for years.

They DO need to solve this liquids thing though.

CP
Guest

In complete agreement with your analysis.

My only fear is that now we’ll have TSA agents with rulers and arguing that the knife is 2.7 inches. :)

Wyodog
Guest
@Jorg: Ditto on the imperial system. But no, we’re America, we don’t have to join the rest of the world on metric. Speaking of joining the rest of world — in this case, in the form of the IACO — bringing our carry-on policies in line, it gives me great pause. One, boxer cutters were used to murder flight crew members on 9/11. Two, given the seemingly increasing rate of air assaults on crew, is it wise to have hockey & lacrosse sticks, ski poles — really? — within reach? As a former ticket/gate agent, the last thing agents need… Read more »
MeanMeosh
Guest
Unless you’re Marty McSorley, or the Hanson Brothers, or a similarly skilled expert in the art of stick-swinging, I seriously doubt you’re going to be able to cause much mayhem with a hockey stick, lacrosse stick, golf club, ski pole, etc. I’m pretty sure if someone started menacing a passenger or crew member with one of these objects, multiple passengers in the vicinity would immediately gang-tackle the offender. That’s even assuming you can find enough room in a narrow airplane aisle to get off a good swing. You might be able to get off one good swing before getting subdued,… Read more »
wyodog
Guest
@Jorg: Ditto on the imperial system. But oh wait, this is America we don’t have to join the rest of the world on metric. Speaking of joining the rest of the world, in the case the ICAO, on carry-on policies, gives me pause. One, box cutters were used to murder flight crew members on 9/11. Then again, ask a convict about what materials can be made into a blade. Which leads to two given the seemingly increasing rate of assaults against crew members, does it make sense to have hockey and lacrosse sticks and ski poles — really? — within… Read more »
Miles
Guest

Not a complaint, but I haven’t heard a rationale for limiting the number of golf clubs that can be carried on to two. Is a larger number of golf clubs in carry-on a greater threat than one or two?

Ron
Guest

Three or four golf clubs may be fine, but they should definitely outlaw these high-capacity golf club magazines, to give passengers a chance to tackle you while you reload.

Greg Wesson
Guest

It’s the powerful Par 3 Golf Course Owner’s Association lobby. “You can only bring two clubs on a plane? Can’t play Pebble Beach with that! Instead, come to your local pitch and putt with your 9 iron and your putter, and have a blast!”

Zack Rules
Guest

on liquids, the Clinton team did an analysis and determined it was not worth it after the Ramsey Yousef incident. No idea what Bush did but if I recall, Yoisef used mini shampoo bottles, smaller than the current size allowed, to blow up a plane.

David SF eastbay
Member

Can’t you juse hear it at check points, people complaining because they can’t bring on their shampoo, but the guy in front can have his knive.

If you can bring a hockey stick, can you bring hockey pucks? If so that could be a real danger, someone could whack a puck and sent it flying into a window smashing it and having everyone sucked out of the plane while it nose-dives into New York City. Oh wait, that only happens in the movies.

john96
Member

David, is there really enough room for the back swing … especially in Y to get a good slap shot going?… ;o)

Andrew
Guest

My biggest worry isn’t the knives, but the fact that some idiot is going to actually put a hockey stick in an overhead bin, blocking the ability for normal rollaboard bags to fit in the bin. It’s bag enough when people with guitars do this now (one guitar in an overhead bin take up the space of two, if not three rollaboards placed the proper way, and it drive me NUTS), so I hate seeing a list that includes really big items such as lacrosse sticks, hockey sticks, and ski poles.

Bill from DC
Guest

you’re right in that none of these are below the seat items but hopefully these stick type of things can go on top of most rollaboards

jeremy anderson
Guest

Imagine my surprise last week when I arrived in Seattle and realized that I had gone through security with a U lock in my backpack. That’s 5 lbs of case hardened steel. Even better, on the way home, they pulled me out to bag check because this time they saw it. Apparently it’s an allowed item, but while dismissing my U lock, the TSA agent lectured me for not removing my 2oz shampoo bottle from my bag when sending it through the scanner.

DesertGhost
Guest

Maybe the ban on Swiss Army knives was a conspiracy by the manufacturer to sell more knives.

But seriously, it seems to me that setting a consistent, pragmatic international policy regarding carry on items would be useful and welcomed by the public.

noahkimmel
Member
I like that TSA is focusing on bigger threats, expandind Pre Check, and reducing its invasiveness. There are so many ways to beat the system, that the status quo only lengthens lines and increases stress and frustration. Not sure if knives should be allowed, given the number of assaults on FAs and crazy pax we have seen lately, but I think TSA is moving in the right direction. However, by turning a lot of this stuff over to airlines, it allows for variance in policy which is also frustrating. Perhaps the industry can set some standards on this front and… Read more »
Bravenav
Guest

I pulled out my trusty Swiss Army knife to measure the blade, and what do you know, it measures almost exactly 2.36 inches! So perhaps it’s not such an arbitrary limit at all.

Ben G
Guest

To be honest, I really am not worried about the knives. A knife that small is fairly hard to detect anyway, such as those on corkscrews. One prominent travel blogger has openly stated for years that he carries a swisskey with him whenever he travels, and that he has done so for years and it has never been detected.

Personally, I’m more worried about the billy clubs er “souvenir bats” that are going to be allowed now. I think one could do more damage with one of those than with an allowed knife.

Chicago Chris
Member

You kid, but I’ve actually had a letter opener taken from me at security in Las Vegas. They claimed the small blade was dangerous.

Another time I got stopped with a cheesecake because an agent thought it wasn’t solid enough for the liquid rule, but a supervisor gave the okay.

BW
Guest

Oh no, a cheesecake! Maybe the agent needed a dessert for the TSA potluck.

I was worried about my jelly filled Voodoo doughnuts at PDX until I saw about half the people in line had a box.

BW
Guest

A serious question that I haven’t seen specifically addressed anywhere. Is a corkscrew good to go? I’m assuming yes, since most pocket knives that would fit under the new rule have one. I frequently travel with one (I prefer the folding kind like most restaurants use) and don’t always remember to check my bag. I have had several confiscated over the last few years.

Trent880
Guest

You lost me at “let’s be realistic here” when talking about the TSA…

SEAN
Guest

You lost me at security theatre. LOL

The TSA hasn’t delt with the most dangerous weppon onboard airplanes – the passengers themselves! LOL

maxe
Guest

Kiddo, the entire world, with very few exceptions, is on metric. The biggest exception: the medieval and generally ignorant US of A, trying to patronize the rest of the world. So how about it? Progress a little? The profit that could be made by changing things around! And the public, as usual, wouldn’t know and just pay those half cents per item extra…

Shane
Guest

We should go on metric time while we are at it:
http://deadhomersociety.com/2011/08/24/quote-of-the-day-889/

Fred
Guest

Why wait until April 25th? Why not start today (or within the few days it takes to notify all TSA employees)?

john96
Member

I like Tiffany Hawk’s commentary on CNN. The current security environment needs to be changed, but I don’t think allowing knives is the place to start.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/07/opinion/hawk-tsa-knives/index.html?hpt=hp_c1.

Two quotes from her piece to consider: “…Note the word “aircraft” — not people. As someone who was a flight attendant for United Airlines on 9/11, I am intimately familiar with that logic.”

“…the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a billiards cue is a good guy with a Wiffle ball bat.”

jim pointer
Guest

It is heartening that Terrible Security Always is loosening up its arbitrary, ineffective, and just plain stupid restrictions. It is scary to watch a hoard of blue shirts descend upon a 90-year-old with a hip replacement or a teenaged girl with a 3.2 ounce tube of sunscreen. I would depend upon my fellow travelers long before I would depend upon these misguided civil servants to detect a potential threat to our security.

Kheart359
Member

File “small knives” under bullshit……agreed, hardly the place to begin any restrictions by the TSA…..I do agree with flight attendants and absolutely understand their concerns with their own safety………..

MileHighJoe
Guest

Terrorist hijackings aren’t the only threat on a plane. So are crazies and drunks. So, WHY would we want more knives onboard? Simply for the “convenience” of those travelling with knives who don’t want to check their bag?

I’m sorry to swim against the tide here, but I don’t support this change. As stupid as I find airport security theater, this just seems even dumber.

BW
Guest

If that’s the real threat, then shouldn’t we be spending our efforts trying to keep crazies, drunks, and terrorists off airplanes?

Jeff G
Guest
I’ll present a bit of a contrarian viewpoint (albeit not my own) on this. I work with a guy who, as a side gig, makes plastic training knives for martial arts/security training folks, modelled after actual knives (yes, he sells SAK and boxcutter trainers as well as the large Crocodile Dundee versions). When these came down the pike the other day, I showed him the website — and he went nuts over one of the “permitted” knives on the TSA website. The large corkscrew/knife combo with the curved handle (second from the right on the TSA picture demonstrating permitted knives)… Read more »
james
Guest

Good. Now to remove the liquid ban. When reading this the only thing that comes to mind is the phrase “Anything can be a weapon” And the pax themselves are and have proven themselves to be ready to defend.

A few months back I was in O’Hare airside and saw a box of 10 empty wine bottles behind an open air restaurant. With a towel and muffled shattering of the neck they could be transformed into a lethal or at least quite damaging weapon.

I trust my fellow passengers more than I do the policies.

Austin
Guest

This is a step in the right direction!
I hope to loosen more rules.

Red
Member

I know up at Los Alamos Labs they are working on a liquid testing system so we can bring our sodas on planes

SEAN
Guest

Wow, an explosive Pepsi. Who would of thunk it.

Jeff G
Guest

Sean obviously doesn’t know the effect on my digestive system of carbonated sodas! :P

BW
Guest

I support this use of tax dollars. I realize it wouldn’t be necessary if we could just undo our previous stupid use of tax dollars (the liquid ban), but it seems we just have to get past that.

Markoh80
Member

TSA getting smarter does not compute in my brain.

Liz
Guest

I’m glad they are now allowing the handy Swiss Army knife. When we go travelling the Leatherman is the most useful thing we bring and if it got lost in the hold we would be far more annoyed by this than loosing our clothes.