Hey, TSA, can I get my knife back now??

The TSA is revising carry-on restrictions at the end of April with the most notable change that small knives will be permitted on board again. The rules change will align the US with European Union policies, which includes allowing pocket knives with a blade up to 6cm through the checkpoints. There are some other items permitted, too, including lacrosse sticks and golf clubs, but it is the knives bit which has raised the most attention with the announcement.


TSA Administrator John Pistole pretty much conceded that the small knives are not a threat to planes. In a presentation to the 22nd AVSEC World conference in New York Pistole stated that the last three months of 2012 saw an average of 47 such knives seized daily at LAX alone. He also suggested that screening for them was a waste of time based on the risk they pose, "Frankly, I donโ€™t want TSA agents to be delayed by these."

It is almost hard to believe that the TSA is managing to change their tune on certain items, acknowledging hat the risks they’ve previously been up in arms about might not be so real. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but I’m surprised they’re willing to stand up and admit that things have gone a bit too far to the "anything in the name of security" direction and come back towards reality a bit. Also perhaps of note is that Pistole suggested the reason box-cutters were not included in the revised rule is that there is "just too much emotion involved with those." Probably not a huge deal either way if they are permitted or not.

It is not at all hard to believe that some flight attendants are upset about the change, suggesting that the move will endanger them and other passengers. The President of Southwest‘s FA union is asking that the change be rescinded immediately, according to Fox News. Of course, I don’t recall tales of knife fights amongst passengers in the past, back when even larger knives were permitted, but that’s a whole different story.

At the same conference European Commission director for security and policy coordination Marjeta Jager stated that they want to start rolling back the liquids ban much more aggressively. They still expect to have screening of one sort or another on the liquids, but Jager expects to allow them through checkpoints, starting with permitting duty free goods on connections. "The restriction on liquids must go. It was a measure we took in 2006 as a temporary solution and it has taken too long to apply technologies to lift this restriction."

The TSA remains convinced that non-metallic explosives are the true threat to aviation security and they want that to be the focus of their screening efforts. That means the pat-downs and body scanners aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. As for snow globes, they seem to still be on the prohibited list so I guess not everything is rational. At least not yet.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. This will also be helpful to people who pack corkscrew in their carry-ons, as they often have small blades for removing the foil on wine bottles.

  2. Duty free liquids are allowed on connections, at least in some cases. In Nov, I bought some booze in Prague and connected in LHR (on to the US). It was allowed, although I had to hold the store-sealed plastic bag, without handles, while going through security – no booze in backpack please! They did ask me where I bought it (and the bag clearly said Prague Airpot). Still hugely annoying, but I was glad I didn’t have to down 2 liters of hard stuff during a tight connection ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Sadly, AM, that EU sealed-plastic bag for duty-free wouldn’t have helped you if you were continuing on in the States. My silly? ridiculous? policy home country would have either made you put it into checked luggage before you went through TSA to get back airside after customs, at baggage recheck. Or else, taken it away.

    It’s ludicrous and stupid. A minor addition to my list of reasons why I no longer live there!

    1. I prefer a 7-iron over the wedge; a bit easier to cover a variety of shots with that club. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      As for the corkscrew, I’ve had a knifeless one in my bag for years now. Very, very, very useful.

  4. Glad to know that I won’t have to worry about my keychain knives anymore – they only caught them (when I forgot) about 50% of the time, but it was still annoying (and led me to start purchasing them two at a time – nice counter action, good for the knife companies!). Thanks for sharing the good news.

  5. I’ve had my share of “uh ohs” when I pull my keys out to go through security in my home airport terminal and my pocketknife is still attached. Quick, run back to the car, take it off the keychain and leave it in the glovebox!!!

  6. Maybe everyone has conveniently forgotten that Betty Ong the purser on flight 11 of the twin towers disaster had her throat slit by a box cutter! You wonder why flight attendants are angry? Our lives are on the line. This is total BS on the part of TSA. Then again TSA has always been one big cluster from its conception. No knives should be permitted on board other than a butter knife.

    1. No, Anonymous, I did’t forget that box cutters were used on 9/11. But I also don’t let isolated incidents drive irrational decision making. At least I try not to. That tactic was played once and won’t be coming back. It is not a legit threat any more. The list of items which can be carried on board and used to inflict similar damage – from a glass bottle to knitting needles to a fancy fountain pen – is huge.

      Rather than focusing efforts on things which aren’t going to pose a risk anyways I’m happy to see some efforts made at shifting towards a focus on real risks, not all potential risks. The TSA is a mess right now, but this is one move they’re making in the right direction IMO, not the wrong direction.

  7. No, certain size snowglobes are allowed. I went through TSA with one less than half an hour ago.

  8. No snowglobes of a certain size are allowed. I went through TSA with one less than half an hour ago.

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