Airline passengers flew for decades without the constant fear that the plane would be hijacked by terrorists. We think the decision by the Transportation Security Commission to revise some of the rules for carry-on luggage to pre-9 / 11 standards makes sense.
Many are not old enough to remember air travel without security checks and rules about what can or can’t be brought aboard the plane as carry-on items. But the rules changed because the world changed, and hijackings and bombings became a more prominent threat.
But in some cases, the security measures have seemed overzealous. Checking for forbidden items – and often confiscating them – has been a major inconvenience without affording much more security.
So the TSA reviewed its prohibited items and decided to remove a few of them from the list. The new rules will take effect April 25.
After that date, small knives with blades no longer than 2.36 inches and no wider than half an inch can be carried onto the plane. This covers blades such as those found on small pen knives and wine openers.
Inspectors also will allow passengers to carry on small novelty bats, ski poles, hockey and lacrosse sticks, pool cues and up to two golf clubs. Larger knives, razor-type blades such as box cutters, utility knives, safety razor blades (but not disposable razors or cartridges), scissors, ice picks, large baseball bats, bows and arrows and spear guns still are prohibited.
Pilots, who are locked in cockpits behind armored doors, would not be endangered by passengers wielding any of these items. But flight attendants have complained that the new rules would create an unnecessary risk for them and further crowd the already limited space in overhead bins.
We sympathize. Mentally unstable or intoxicated passengers can pose a risk whether armed with a pen knife or not. But federal air marshals, armed pilots and crew members with self-defense training are aboard most flights to minimize that risk.
The airlines have to measure the threat posed by pen knives vs. the convenience of passengers. Allowing small knives, ski poles, golf clubs and other common items to be carried onto the plan should speed the inspection process considerably.
Significantly, the changes also will bring rules for U.S. flights in line with those of international carriers.
TSA officials say the change will allow security officials to focus on the threats that can cause catastrophic damage to an aircraft. Airlines can’t totally ignore any threats of violence to passengers and crew, but, again, that threat should be kept in perspective.
We take a risk every time we board a plane, and not just from terrorists. But we also take a considerably higher risk driving to the airport.
Thankfully, on the vast majority of flights, nothing out of the ordinary occurs. And personnel on the plane are prepared for most of the incidents that do occur.
We suspect most passengers will welcome speedier inspections and the privilege of carrying small knives and sporting equipment aboard the plane. All in all, we think it’s a risk worth taking.