TSA lifts ban on small knives on flights

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The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has lifted the ban on small knives on commercial flights.

John Pistole, administrator of the TSA, says that the agency will allow small knives with retractable blades that are less than half an inch wide through airport security screening checkpoints from 25 April, at the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) AVSEC aviation security conference in New York on 5 March. Novelty or souvenir-sized bats and some sporting equipment will also be allowed through checkpoints.

Security screeners at US airports will be able to focus more on non-metallic improvised explosive devices (IED), increase efficiencies and increasingly harmonise the list of items allowed through checkpoints with other countries, he says.

"[The] announcement to permit knives back into the aircraft cabin is a poor and shortsighted decision by the TSA," said the Flight Attendants Union Coalition in a statement. "Continued prohibition of these items is an integral layer in making our aviation system secure and must remain in place."

Julie Frederick, legislative representative at the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, added: "The timing couldn't be worse, frankly. We're still not sure what sequestration means for airport TSA or the Federal Air Marshal Service."

Pistole agrees with reporters that a half-inch blade could injure someone and says "its not a perfect system".

Razor blades and box cutters will remain banned from commercial flights, he says.

Airline reaction to the TSA's move is largely supportive. Dave Barger, chief executive of JetBlue Airways, says that he applauds the actions of Pistole and the TSA in the decision.

Jose Freig, managing director of security at US Airways, says that it is in line with the requirements of a risk-based security programme, on the sidelines of the forum.

Kim Werre, manager of aviation security at Alaska Airlines, declines to comment on the decision but says that a risk-based approach to security is "where the industry needs to go".

"This is good news," says Tony Tyler, director general and chief executive of IATA, on Pistole's announcement. "It helps harmonise the rules across the world."