TSA shelves plan for knives on planes

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Wednesday dropped its plan to allow knives on airplanes, bowing to intense criticism from lawmakers and aviation groups.

The TSA had sought to remove knives with blades shorter than 2.36 inches from its list of items airline passengers are prohibited from carrying on planes.

The agency delayed the implementation of the new rule in April, but the TSA said on Wednesday that the proposal was being shelved permanently.

"After extensive engagement with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, law enforcement officials, passenger advocates, and other important stakeholders, TSA will continue to enforce the current prohibited items list," the agency said in a statement that was provided to The Hill.

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The TSA had promoted the proposal to allow small knives onto airplanes as an extension of its move to a "risk-based" security system. The agency said removing knives from its prohibited items list would allow airport security screeners to focus on searching for explosive devices.

Critics seized on the fact that the proposal would have resulted in airline passengers being allowed to carry knives onto airplanes the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Lawmakers who criticized the TSA's plan praised the agency's decision to abandon it.

“It seemed obvious to most travelers and airline employees that the decision to allow knives on planes was wrong, and we're glad the TSA, after further review and input, has seen it our way," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "This decision will allow TSA agents to focus on more important things than measuring the length of knives, and sorting the 'good' knives from the 'bad.' Their move is the right one, and I'd like to thank them to listening to our input and the input of the flying public.”

Aviation groups also hailed the decision, taking credit for pressuring TSA to drop the proposal.

"We promised ‘No Knives on Planes Ever Again,’ and today that promise was kept,” the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions that vocally opposed the TSA proposal said in a statement.

“Terrorists armed only with knives killed thousands of Americans on 9/11/2001," the flight attendant union coalition continued. "As the women and men on the front lines in the air, we vowed to do everything in our power to protect passengers and flight crews from harm and prevent that type of atrocity from happening ever again. The result is better security policy and the assurance that our nation’s aviation security system continues to be vigilant for knives that could be used in a terrorist attack or criminal act against passengers or crew.”

The proposal was first suggested in March, but the agency faced immediate pushback. The TSA had announced that it would allow sporting goods, such as hockey sticks and toy baseball bats, as well small knives, beginning on April 25.

Critics zoomed in on the proposal to allow knives, however, pointing out that the terrorists who hijacked four U.S. airplanes on Sept. 11, 2001, were reported to have been using box cutters.

The TSA's reversal came as a group of House members said they were introducing legislation to block the TSA from implementing the policy change.

The agency said on Wednesday afternoon that it was still committed to making changes to its airport security procedures.

"TSA’s top priority continues to be expansion of efforts to implement a layered, Risk-Based Security approach to passenger screening while maximizing resources," the agency said. "Risk-Based Security enhances the travel experience while allowing TSA to continue to keep passengers safe by focusing on those we know less about, and we will continue to take steps to improve our ever evolving security posture while also improving the experience of the traveling public."

— This story was updated at 3:19 p.m. and 3:33 p.m.