There will soon be new seating sections on domestic airlines. In front of the reinforced cockpit door will be the "safe zone." Behind that passengers will have a medieval free-for-all featuring hand-to-hand combat with (tiny) knives and (golf) clubs — at least, that's what the flight attendants are saying today.
Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole announced that, in about six weeks, you will once again be able to bring your favorite two-inch knife and/or hockey stick with you on a plane. (Your water bottle will still need to stay home.) The Los Angeles Times' Hugo Martin reports:
For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, federal airport screeners will allow passengers to carry onto a plane small knives, as well as golf clubs, hockey sticks and pool cues.
The policy change, which will take effect April 25, was immediately criticized by flight attendants, who say the move will create an unnecessary risk and further crowd the already limited space in the overhead bins.
Presumably from the golf clubs, not the small knives.
USA Today quotes a representative of Southwest's flight attendant union, who argues that the move leaves attendants and passengers exposed to attack, while pilots will be protected behind reinforced doors. Which is fair: preventing a hijacking is of limited use if the plane arrives at its destination bearing 140 stabbed passengers. For its part, the TSA argues that the move allows it "to focus on the threats that can cause catastrophic damage to an aircraft." Which hopefully doesn't mean that the people in charge of insisting you remove your shoes will now be sniffing out bombs.
If you're curious how often the TSA caught people trying to carry a small knife onto a plane, the answer is: a lot. The agency's blog provides regular updates on what gets confiscated; last week alone, 17 loaded guns were collected at airport security points. At New York's JFK, at least one knife. But — for perhaps for the last time in a long time — the skies were golf-club free.
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