Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
The Transportation Security Administration will allow travelers to bring small knives, golf clubs and hockey sticks into airline cabins for the first time since 2001, TSA chief John Pistole announced Tuesday.
The change, intended to conform to international rules, will take effect April 25. The announcement came as Pistole spoke to a security conference in New York, and marks the first big loosening of restrictions for carry-on items since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Pistole stressed the importance of risk-based screening, to focus on the biggest threats to aircraft rather than holding everyone to the same security standard.
Security experts such as Kip Hawley, the former head of TSA under former president George W. Bush, have long advocated a less detailed screening of passengers at airport checkpoints, because the hardening of cockpit doors would prevent a terrorist from gaining control of a plane as hijackers did on 9/11.
Razor blades and box cutters, such as those the hijackers used, would still be prohibited.
But the items that will be allowed will more closely match standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, according to the TSA. The following items will now be allowed:
Knives without a molded grip and with blades that don't lock and are less than 6 centimeters or 2.36 inches.
Novelty-size and toy bats less than 24 inches long and weighing less than 24 ounces.
Billiard cues, ski poles, hockey and lacrosse sticks, and two golf clubs as part of carry-on baggage.
"This is part of an overall risk-based security approach, which allows transportation security officers to better focus their efforts on finding higher-threat items such as explosives," the TSA said in a statement.
But flight attendants blasted the change in policy for endangering passengers and crew members outside the cockpit.
The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, representing nearly 90,000 flight attendants at carriers nationwide, blasted the decision.
"Today's announcement to permit knives back into the aircraft cabin is a poor and shortsighted decision by the TSA," the group said in a statement. "As the last line of defense in the cabin and key aviation partners, we believe that these proposed changes will further endanger the lives of all flight attendants and the passengers we work so hard to keep safe and secure."
Stacy Martin, president of Southwest Airlines' flight-attendants union, Transport Workers Union of America Local 556, called the decision "outrageous."
"This policy was designed to make the lives of TSA staff easier, but not make flights safer," Martin says. "While we agree that a passenger wielding a small knife or swinging a golf club or hockey stick poses less of a threat to the pilot locked in the cockpit, these are real threats to passengers and flight attendants in the passenger cabin."