It’s been a good while since passengers were able to board an aircraft without being subject to the kind of security measures which in other circumstances would put you through to the head of the Secret Service – X-ray machines, pat downs, intimate body searches and any other checks for prohibited items which are deemed necessary.
At times, it has almost seemed easier to carry no personal belongings at all, including the shirt on your back. But now the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has decided to restore the status quo and… allow knives in the cabin.
Not just any knives, though – only ones of which the TSA approves. This means knives with blades which are less than 2.36 inches long and 0.5 inches wide. Additional criteria include a ban on locking blades and moulded grips, which will presumably make it harder to saw anyone’s limbs off.
To avoid any confusion, the TSA has produced a convenient ‘Small Knives Guideline’ for travellers to check whether their knife of choice passes muster. On a side note, there is also new guidance on sports equipment, with the TSA now allowing implements such as golf clubs (just two, mind!) and novelty baseball bats which are less than 24 inches long (well anyway, the bigger ones are difficult to swing in a cabin).
Due to take effect on April 25 as part of a “risk-based” security policy targeting “higher threat items” such as explosives, the changes have caused widespread consternation and prompted a nationwide campaign by the Flight Attendants Union Coalition to fight the knife ban reversal.
In a statement last week, the union described flight attendants’ outrage and pointed out that cabin personnel are “the last line of defence in aviation security”. Playing the 9/11 trump card, the union stated, “We were among the first to die in a war we didn’t know we were fighting on September 11, 2001. At great cost, we know better today. There is no excuse for this.”
Rather than “excuse”, perhaps “reason” is the pertinent word: what reason can there possibly be to allow knives back in the cabin? Who really needs to carry a knife? No doubt a claim could be made for personal freedom, but that won’t wash as long as there are other in-flight restrictions in place.
Reversing the knife ban will bring no tangible benefits, only negative consequences – including the added burden on security personnel to check that all knives match the allowed criteria.
And by the way, TSA, even a small knife can slit a throat.
Joanne Perry, Online Editor, UBM Aviation