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TSA troubles
March 9, 2013 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Delta Airlines and other airline workers' unions have asked the TSA to reconsider their recent announcement to loosen security restrictions on airlines, effective April 25, that would allow passengers to carry small pocket knives, among other items.

Meanwhile, in Newark,, on February 25th, an undercover investigator with a fake bomb went through a metal detector and a pat down at Liberty Airport without the device being detected.

The exact makeup of the mock IED was not available, but even devices small enough to be stashed in a passenger’s pants could blow a hole through a plane’s fuselage.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (202 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm'a gonna hijack a plane with a hockey stick.
My friend will carry the puck.
We will seek asylum in Canada.
posted by Mezentian at 8:47 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


*sigh* How many stabbings on planes did we have prior to 9/11? Yeah. Let's chill out here a bit, hmm?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:47 AM on March 9, 2013 [26 favorites]


This week, the TSA said it would allow air travelers to board U.S. aircraft with small folding knives, golf clubs, novelty bats, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and pool cues.

I see that the Hells Angels K Street lobbying efforts are starting to pay dividends.
posted by Talez at 8:48 AM on March 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


Wait... where does this leave Nerf weapons?
posted by Mezentian at 8:49 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The first thing I did when I saw this announcement a few days ago was to measure my favorite pocket knife. It's just a little too big, dammit.
posted by rtha at 8:52 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sometimes they have to shake up the Security Theater lest their act grow stale.
posted by codswallop at 8:53 AM on March 9, 2013 [29 favorites]


Sometimes they have to Harlem Shake up the Security Theater lest their act grow stale.

I am so relevant.
posted by Mezentian at 8:55 AM on March 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


The 9-11 hijackers used boxcutters. Whoever had this bright idea at the TSA is an idiot.
posted by brujita at 8:57 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


"If the TSA policymakers were engaged in close-quarter combat with a psycho wielding a 2-inch blade at 30,000 feet, they might reconsider the foolishness of their decision," said Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Assn., which represents air marshals.

I have never heard of someone being killed by a pocketknife on a plane. However, I have heard of someone killed by fellow passengers.

If we're all so psychotic that flight attendants are frightened to be with us on a plane if we've got a pen knife in our pocket, we should just scuttle the whole air travel system now.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:00 AM on March 9, 2013 [21 favorites]


The 9-11 hijackers used boxcutters.

They also used force of numbers, crazy-eyes, a lack of security and psychology.
posted by Mezentian at 9:01 AM on March 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


As long as we allow passengers to board without undergoing a body-cavity search, seeing the tiny-folding-knife ban as an effective and needed security measure requires a certain willful suspension of disbelief.
posted by Dimpy at 9:01 AM on March 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wonder what the unions would have said if the TSA announced they were dissolving altogether and returning security to the airlines/airports.

The 9/11 hijackers used the fact that we trained crews and passengers to go along with hijacker demands on the grounds that that's how things would end safely. The boxcutters were not the primary weapon, and were probably just there because the terrorists were being thorough. Previous hijackings were pulled off using mere threats that a bomb was somewhere.
posted by SMPA at 9:03 AM on March 9, 2013 [33 favorites]


I don't understand how they think it makes sense to allow KNIVES, but not, say, liquids over 3.4 ounces.
posted by altopower at 9:03 AM on March 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


Shampoo is still bad though, right?
posted by dobbs at 9:05 AM on March 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't understand how they think it makes sense to allow KNIVES, but not, say, liquids over 3.4 ounces.

Simple: Most hotels provide tiny bottles of kinda-gross shampoo and conditioner, but no complimentary knives. Big Shampoo is much more powerful than Big Tiny Knife.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:05 AM on March 9, 2013 [58 favorites]


It seems like "anything with a blade" should be an easy bright-line rule that's easy to remember, easy to justify, and easy to enforce. The TSA always chooses to go with random, bizarre, and difficult.
posted by bleep at 9:05 AM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I tend to agree, altopower, but the argument about liquids is basically "we can't figure out if something might turn out to actually be a bomb," i.e., that they'really incapable of actually providing significant security using any of their existing obnoxious methods. And that makes perfect sense to me.
posted by SMPA at 9:06 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Knives before shoes?
posted by ChuraChura at 9:07 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The 9/11 hijackers used the fact thatwe trained crews and passengers to go along with hijacker demands on the grounds that that's how things would end safely. The boxcutters were not the primary weapon, and were probably just there because the terrorists were being thorough. Previous hijackings were pulled off using mere threats that a bomb was somewhere.

This. You think a small knife is going to stop passengers from gang rushing any brown guy that stands up with a swiss army knife going "this is a hijacking" after 9/11? They're going to fucking murder the guy before he has a chance to finish standing up.
posted by Talez at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


But yet I still can't carry my 4 ounce container of hair product. FUTSA.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most hotels provide tiny bottles of kinda-gross shampoo and conditioner, but no complimentary knives. Big Shampoo is much more powerful than Big Tiny Knife.

Big Tiny Knife is the name of my Radiohead cover band.
posted by Foosnark at 9:14 AM on March 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


My favorite response came from former TSA chief Kip Hawley:
"In retrospect, I should have done the same thing," Hawley said of the rule, which allows passengers to board aircraft with certain small knives, as well as sports equipment such as ice hockey and lacrosse sticks.

"They ought to let everything on that is sharp and pointy. Battle axes, machetes ... bring anything you want that is pointy and sharp because while you may be able to commit an act of violence, you will not be able to take over the plane. It is as simple as that," he said.

"So my position would be, bravo on the 2.6 inch knife. But why not take it all the way and then really clean up the checkpoint where officers are focusing on bombs and toxins, which are things that can destroy an airplane. And it would smooth the process, cost less money, and be better security."

Asked if he was using hyperbole in suggesting that battle axes be allowed on planes, Hawley said he was not.

"I really believe it. What are you going to do when you get on board with a battle ax? And you pull out your battle ax and say I'm taking over the airplane. You may be able to cut one or two people, but pretty soon you would be down in the aisle and the battle ax would be used on you."

And, he pointed out, "You can commit acts of violence on an aircraft with what is allowed now. With a Coke can, a key, a ruler, and some duct tape, you can make a 12-inch razor-sharp sword. And every eighth-grader would be able to do that."
I'm not sure I would have given out the top-secret katana blueprints, but still. Amen. I'm tired of taking off my damn shoes because of one weird thing that didn't actually happen eleven years ago. It protects exactly nobody.
posted by cribcage at 9:15 AM on March 9, 2013 [82 favorites]


Presumably the TSA got tired of people quoting Spiderman at them.
posted by JDHarper at 9:16 AM on March 9, 2013


But yet I still can't carry my 4 ounce container of hair product. FUTSA.

When the TSA can train people to have an encyclopedic like knowledge of chemistry and to be competent at conducting and interpreting mass spectroscopy I'm sure they'll be confident that some asshole isn't bringing a mass of nitric acid to soak their spare pairs of cotton socks in.
posted by Talez at 9:16 AM on March 9, 2013


This is one TSA ruling I'm not going to get upset about. Anything that brings sanity to the security theatre is welcome.
posted by arcticseal at 9:17 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


How many stabbings on planes did we have prior to 9/11?

Seconded. I've been forced to mail my Swiss Army Knife home from the airport several times. If 250 passengers can not subdue a guy with a 3.5" blade, something is very wrong.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:18 AM on March 9, 2013


If I could just keep my belt and shoes on when I go through security, I'd be happy. It's such a pain in the ass.

Noticed Etihad airlines had metal cutlery on Economy last year, so things are loosening up.
posted by flippant at 9:18 AM on March 9, 2013


If terrorists can't use shampoo, they will use real poo. And probably more than 3 oz at a time.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:19 AM on March 9, 2013 [27 favorites]


I'm a bit more worried that the TSA is relaxing restrictions and screening for people who fly a lot, or travel internationally and have $100 to spare.

For some reason, the TSA feels that it's OK for the 1% to be exempt from the pointless humiliation of removing their shoes at airport security, or from being angrily grilled about their foreign travels whenever they reenter the US.
posted by schmod at 9:19 AM on March 9, 2013 [27 favorites]


Well, there's no way in hell I'll be flying Air Canada now!

http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/hockey-stick-as-a-sheeth-with-a-sword-hidden-inside-it
posted by markkraft at 9:23 AM on March 9, 2013


Is there a reason to support small knives on planes other than snark? Because, that's the only argument I'm seeing here.

As others have pointed out, the best policy is the one with the fewest qualifications/fine print unless you need the fine print to not cause inconvenience or other problems. I don't see how checking your boy scout knife in your checked bag is such a big deal (yeah, yeah, bag fees, whatever) and I think that all sensible people agree that Bowie knives should be banned. Unless there is a huge resurgence in traveling whittling professionals who are pressed for deadlines, I will tend to stand with the working class flight attendants and law enforcement professionals on this one.
posted by Skwirl at 9:24 AM on March 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wanted to fly from Los Angeles to Helena, MT. $1,000. Who can afford knives and hair product?
posted by Brocktoon at 9:27 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I used to carry a Swiss Army knife with me when I traveled. Now I don't. I survived.
posted by tommasz at 9:27 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Skwirl: "Is there a reason to support small knives on planes other than snark? Because, that's the only argument I'm seeing here.
...
I don't see how checking your boy scout knife in your checked bag is such a big deal (yeah, yeah, bag fees, whatever)...
"

Bag fees, yes, because many more people are traveling with just carry-ons to avoid them. However, and this is the biggest point for me, I don't want my stuff stolen. I've had the same small knife since I graduated from high school back when we still used oil lamps and rode a triceratops uphill both ways in the snow. It is compact, easily slipped into a pocket, and I fear every time I put it into a checked bag that it will be missing when I get to the other end.

You can make the entirely legitimate point that my angst is better dealt with by having better control over checked bag screening, but until then, when I'm going to do no damage whatsoever with that small device, what's the harm?
posted by fireoyster at 9:29 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a reason to support small knives on planes other than snark?

Many people carry pocketknives. I understand it's a cultural thing and some people immediately think "WEAPON!!" when they see a sharp blade, but many civilized and law-abiding people carry pocketknives as tools just the same as strapping a watch onto their wrist or slipping a cell phone into their pocket.

Asking these people to leave their pocketknives behind when they travel, or asking them to pay $25 to check luggage so their pocketknife can be stored in the plane's underbelly, is silly. Yes, of course those people will "survive" if you make them do one of those things. But making them do either of those things doesn't actually accomplish anything, so we shouldn't.

Generally speaking, government should have a damn good reason for compelling anybody to do anything, or banning anybody from doing anything. There is no "damn good reason" for banning small knives from airplanes, so we shouldn't do it.
posted by cribcage at 9:32 AM on March 9, 2013 [25 favorites]


"Unless there is a huge resurgence in traveling whittling professionals who are pressed for deadlines, I will tend to stand with the working class flight attendants and law enforcement professionals on this one."

Seriously, its not so much that someone is going honestly hijack an airline with the new cockpit doors and desperate plane fulls of people who can't be intimidated. Its about the 90 lb flight attendants who get to deal with all the unbalanced people who get spooked by all the theater and go crazy in a confined environment that now will have access to knives. I don't want the other passengers on a plane with me to have to mail their ceremonial wedding cake knives because I think their any real threat to me, I don't want them on planes because knives are a real threat to flight attendants.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:32 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there a reason to support small knives on planes other than snark? Because, that's the only argument I'm seeing here.

Because they can be attached to something else benign? Because shit gets stolen by TSA/baggage handlers in checked luggage? Because airlines charge for checked luggage?
posted by Talez at 9:34 AM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sequestration will sort this all out
posted by angrycat at 9:41 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


If the Delta CEO or other airlines were serious about plane safety, they'd get rid of their absurd checked bag fees. I always keep a mini Swiss army knife no bigger than my pinky on my keychain, and have lost a couple due to forgetting to remove them before going through security. Though I've also accidentally left it on my keychain several times, and have had TSA either not care or not catch it.

I don't *need* it on an airplane (though it's incredibly useful for cutting off loose strings on my sweater), but it makes no sense to pay $50 to check something round trip, when it only cost me $10.

But keeping something banned from carry on, logical or not, also earns the airline more money - it's hard for me to take any airline policy on this very seriously.
posted by raztaj at 9:45 AM on March 9, 2013


I'm a bit more worried that the TSA is relaxing restrictions and screening for people who fly a lot, or travel internationally and have $100 to spare.

For some reason, the TSA feels that it's OK for the 1% to be exempt from the pointless humiliation of removing their shoes at airport security, or from being angrily grilled about their foreign travels whenever they reenter the US.


This is sort of false outrage. As frustrating as I find it that you can buy your way out of hassle, $100 is not exactly what's separating people who can afford plane tickets from the 1%. That most people don't leave the country that often is what's stopping them from spending that $100. Global Entry is something I'd contemplate spending my change jar on when it next fills up and there's more than an order of magnitude separating me from the top 1% of earners.
posted by hoyland at 9:49 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


August, 2001, my family is flying back from a vacation in North Carolina. I get an apple from the attendant and without thinking pull out my leatherman and start cutting it up for my kids. The thought eventually occurs to me, "I've got a fairly sizable knife on this airplane and people are cool with that."

I NEVER CUT AN APPLE ON AN AIRPLANE AGAIN.
posted by pashdown at 9:50 AM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is there a reason to support small knives on planes other than snark? Because, that's the only argument I'm seeing here.

Because it's a waste of time and money to search for them and confiscate them when it doesn't make our planes any more secure.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 9:51 AM on March 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


The 9-11 hijackers used boxcutters. Whoever had this bright idea at the TSA is an idiot.
Why, because you think you could hijack an airplane today with boxcutters?

I'm truly amazed at the number of people who think this is a bad idea. If you think about it for ten seconds you can see that these items don't pose an actual terrorist risk.
I don't understand how they think it makes sense to allow KNIVES, but not, say, liquids over 3.4 ounces.
Because knives can't explode, but some liquids can?
Is there a reason to support small knives on planes other than snark? Because, that's the only argument I'm seeing here.
Because there's no reason not too? The TSA confiscates huge numbers of these items every day, so ending the ban will mean huge numbers of people won't have them confiscated. I would assume it's mostly simply because people forget or aren't aware of the rule. Presumably this also causes delays overall, so un-banning them may speed things up.
I will tend to stand with the working class flight attendants and law enforcement professionals on this one.
The TSA is law enforcement, And what to flight attendants know about fighting turrists?
Its about the 90 lb flight attendants who get to deal with all the unbalanced people who get spooked by all the theater and go crazy in a confined environment that now will have access to knives.
Well, it's not the TSA's job to protect flight attendants from unbalanced people. The TSA's job is to stop people from blowing up or crashing planes.

The risk that flight attendants might face from crazy people is no greater then everyone everywhere else. No one worries about it because it's not a problem.
posted by delmoi at 9:57 AM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The 9-11 hijackers used boxcutters. Whoever had this bright idea at the TSA is an idiot.

Once every flight had reinforced and locked doors to the cockpit, and flight crews were trained to resist rather than comply, it doesn't matter what you could bring on - you can't hijack the airplane. So whoever had this bright idea isn't an idiot - the people who kept you from carrying useful tools after these changes were made, they're the idiots.

I don't want them on planes because knives are a real threat to flight attendants.

Are they suddenly more of a threat than they were before 9/11? Because people flew for years with pocketknives before 9/11 without threatening flight attendants unless they were trying to hijack the plane.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:57 AM on March 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm a bit more worried that the TSA is relaxing restrictions and screening for people who fly a lot, or travel internationally and have $100 to spare.

Have you ever actually looked at the application? You have to give the same information that you do when applying for a federal security clearance. You even have to have an interview. The $100 is probably more to discourage casual applicants; I doubt it's even sufficient to cover the costs for processing the application, and I certainly don't think that it is accurate to say the dollar amount is what is setting the bar for getting the Global Entry card.
posted by solotoro at 9:59 AM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Those are all reasons to fix other parts of the system. Arbitrarily defined rules actually create inefficiencies throughout systems. I'm sure that everyone on Metafilter is a considerate flyer who reviews all their carry-on items and measures every knife on their person to be 2.36 inches or less, but you can bet there will be hold ups in the line as TSA agents break out the rulers or selectively enforce picky regulations on people who they think look funny. I'm all for limiting government invasions but what a silly thing to hold up as a breakthrough.

If you have a sentimental knife, leave it at home when you travel and put the not-sentimental knife in your checked bag and suck up the baggage fee because, hey, you will be flying through the friggin' air at 600 MPH and that is worth a few bucks out of your pocket and a little inconvenience.

I mostly think that the baggage fees are asinine and that the costs should be absorbed into the full cost of a ticket, that theft and damage in checked bags is a problem that only persists out of poor airport management (and that aren't nearly as bad as people make them out to be) and that people should be encouraged to only bring what you need during a flight. Efficiency is achieved by encouraging people to carry fewer items through security, and, despite the idea of security theater and the idea that persistent, intelligent criminals will find a way, the truth is that average criminals are just as dumb as the average TSA agent, so it all kind of evens out except in the extreme cases.

Really, I just see that people here are really fond of their material possessions or their everyday carry or whatever boorish reason and I don't see that that is a good enough reason to go against professional pilots, flight attendants and law enforcement who literally deal with this stuff everyday. The safety professionals carry a much worse risk to reward ratio than a dude who is worried about his EDC does when it comes to this kind of policy change.
posted by Skwirl at 10:01 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other news: Appeals Court Curbs Border Agents’ Carte Blanche Power to Search Your Gadgets
posted by homunculus at 10:05 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I now carry a Leatherman that's airplane -friendly (i.e. no blade), even though it does have a tiny pair of scissors.

It speeds things up if I take it off the key ring and open up all the tools.

But in the end, I really hate not having a pocket knife, especially when traveling; it is an extremely handy tool to have, so the full Leatherman, still going strong even after my archaeology days, goes in the checked bag if I happen to have a checked bag. Otherwise, I'm just SOL.
posted by linux at 10:10 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's ridiculous to think that small knives are a big threat. They simply aren't, and they aren't any greater threat to flight crews than they are to people on the ground.

As someone noted above, however, there may be something cultural at work in this disagreement. I grew up on a farm, and I have always carried a pocket knife...unless/until flying after 9/11. I still remember early in grad school taking it out of my pocket to cut open a box of books in my new office, and one of my fellow students from a city looked at me in horror and said "You carry a knife????" I couldn't for a second figure out what she was talking about, then responded incredulously "Of course I don't 'carry a knife'...this is a pocked knife."

As also noted above, there's no way for a few people with small knives to take over a plane today. I kinda hope this sort of thing leads the public discussion in a direction that forces people to discuss our right to defend the innocent, and to realize that we sometimes have to take responsibility for our own defense. The 9/11 hijackings worked because people didn't resist. "Don't fight back" is a consistent theme in the States, anyway. And it's terrible advice. Which doesn't mean that it isn't sometimes the smart thing to (not) do. But, as a generic policy, it's the pinnacle of irrationality.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:14 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I carry a knife and/or scissors everyday, everywhere. The specs for permissible knives eliminate all of the dozens of knives I own... so, no change there for me. I don't really know why I'd need a knife on a plane anyway, except that I'd be reluctant to put an expensive one in my checked luggage. Even good utilitarian knives can be kinda pricey and I'd hate to lose them.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:14 AM on March 9, 2013


Those are all reasons to fix other parts of the system. Arbitrarily defined rules actually create inefficiencies throughout systems.
What makes you think the rules are arbitrary? In fact, you are arguing for arbitrarily by saying knives shorter then 2.36 inches should be banned for no reason.
but you can bet there will be hold ups in the line as TSA agents break out the rulers or selectively enforce picky regulations on people who they think look funny.
Yes, but there may be holdups now due to large numbers of people carrying shorter knives and having them confiscated. This is not a non issue, people are losing short knives because they are unaware of the current rules or forget them.
If you have a sentimental knife, leave it at home when you travel and put the not-sentimental knife in your checked bag and suck up the baggage fee because
Well, no, people don't have to do any of that because it's within the rules for them to bring it on the plane. What you're arguing is that they should be forced to do that, despite having zero actual justification whatsoever. That's like the definition of an arbitrary rule: one that inconveniences people for no reason.
Really, I just see that people here are really fond of their material possessions or their everyday carry or whatever boorish reason and I don't see that that is a good enough reason to go against professional pilots, flight attendants and law enforcement who literally deal with this stuff everyday.
The TSA is law enforcement, and Flight attendants are not counterterorism experts. The idea seems to be that airplanes should be as secure as prisons and flight attendants are at as much risk as prison guards for being stabbed. Prisons are the only work place I can think of where people make an effort to keep "customers" from having small knives.

I don't think flight attendants need the same level of protection from passengers as prison guards need from prisoners. A pocket knife is not going to bring down a plane. Preventing people from bringing down planes is the TSA's job.

If Delta is that afraid of their passengers, they can setup their own secondary security and screen for small knives. I suspect they would lose a lot of money very quickly if they tried this.
posted by delmoi at 10:16 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


@#$@!(&!!!!

Now you tell me about that Leatherman, linux! I've been looking for something like this for years. How could I have missed it? And now, just as the rules are about to change...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:16 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fees aside, who the hell checks bags unless they're on an extended trip?! This whole argument of eh just check your knife is RIDICULOUS. Show me a frequent flyer who checks luggage and I'll show you someone who is filled with regret for becoming a cellist.
posted by hypersloth at 10:17 AM on March 9, 2013 [32 favorites]


suck up the baggage fee because, hey, you will be flying through the friggin' air at 600 MPH and that is worth a few bucks out of your pocket

We live in a world where air travel probably should be public transportation, because it's become a necessity for many people in many, many different circumstances. (I say that as a tremendous advocate of small government.) It would be nice if people of lesser means didn't need to travel by air, but often they do, and it's expensive. Twenty-five dollars might not be a lot of money to you, but I have represented people who literally could not pay bail in that amount.

If there is a damn good reason for imposing a rule on air travel or increasing its cost, then so be it. People will indeed have to just "suck it up." But before we require that of them, yeah, we ought to scrutinize exactly what that damn good reason is.

As for the bit about boorish people being obsessed with material possessions... That just strikes me as uncharitable and silly. If you're going to assume the worst of people, why bother conversing with them?

I don't really know why I'd need a knife on a plane anyway

I don't think the point is generally that people need to have pocketknives on the plane, but instead that they'd like to bring pocketknives wherever they're going.
posted by cribcage at 10:20 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The TSA is law enforcement, and Flight attendants are not counterterorism experts.

Except no one believes the TSA are counterterrorism experts. Including the TSA themselves, probably.
posted by hoyland at 10:21 AM on March 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


What makes you think the rules are arbitrary?

Some of the rules are arbitrary, some are not. Enforcement does seem to be arbitrary, and I can only think it's because there are so many rules, and they can be applied differently to different types of travelers. See any askme where someone says "I'm going to be flying with suchandsuch object/condition/medical device, what can I expect at security?" and there will be a dozen answers reporting different outcomes.

I've gone through security and been asked to take off my hoodie; on the return trip, no one told me to take it off. I've been told be keep my shoes on; no, take them off. I've forgotten to take out my little baggie of toiletries, and not been yelled at. I've had tubes of more than 3 oz in the baggie and not had them confiscated. I've been patted down because something on my torso (bra strap or underwire, I assume) has pinged the metal detector or scanner, and also not been patted down because it didn't ping. I've seen TSA agents tell people they had to remove a child's shoes even when the sign right there says kids can keep their shoes on.

They won't let you fly with a 3-inch blade, but you can have 10-inch bamboo knitting needles in your carry-on. How is that not arbitrary?
posted by rtha at 10:23 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconded. I've been forced to mail my Swiss Army Knife home from the airport several times.

I *wish* I'd been able to mail my Mk 1. Leatherman Wave home from Schipol. Security didn't notice it on the way there, but inevitably it shows up on the way back. (I'd forgotten all about it.)

Have you ever tried to find packing materials and a post office when your flight leaves in an hour? So into the trash it went...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:24 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and the last time I checked a bag because I wanted to bring a pocket knife because we were going to be doing a lot of hiking and stuff on our trip, my bag disappeared for five days. The flight was from SFO to PDX. Direct, non-stop, obviously.
posted by rtha at 10:26 AM on March 9, 2013


I am always nonplussed when the customs interrogator at the airport asks me if I have anything that could be used as a weapon before I can board. Could I kill someone with my IPad? Probably. Broken shards of gorilla glass could F you up. But I remain silent, because I know they would take it away along with everyone else's....
posted by JJ86 at 10:32 AM on March 9, 2013


The TSA is law enforcement

Despite the (misleading) badges, I don't believe that this is generally true.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:33 AM on March 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


put the not-sentimental knife in your checked bag and suck up the baggage fee because, hey, you will be flying through the friggin' air at 600 MPH and that is worth a few bucks out of your pocket and a little inconvenience

I generally avoid checking baggage if at all possible, primarily to avoid the extra check-in/pick-up time and hassle, but also to avoid the extra fees. How is that boorish? Why is my desire to carry a particular tool more boorish or materialistic than your desire to carry, say, an extra pair of pants?
posted by sriracha at 10:34 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The 9/11 hijackings worked because people didn't resist.

Yeah, it's people's fault! Stupid people.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:34 AM on March 9, 2013


I don't really know why I'd need a knife on a plane anyway

I don't think the point is generally that people need to have pocketknives on the plane, but instead that they'd like to bring pocketknives wherever they're going.
posted by cribcage


So its just about convenience for most people then, I guess. I always check a bag because my travel is usually extended or requires gear that just won't fit in a carry-on (my gear for climbing Mt Rainier or my surfboards when I head to Hawaii for example) but I still would rather bring one of my better knives and not the cheap ones tucked into my carryon.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:35 AM on March 9, 2013


Show me a frequent flyer who checks luggage and I'll show you someone who is filled with regret for becoming a cellist.

Even professional cellists avoid checking bags by buying an extra seat for their cellos. But if you do this, don't try to collect frequent flier miles for the cello.
posted by grouse at 10:36 AM on March 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Some of the rules are arbitrary, some are not. Enforcement does seem to be arbitrary, and I can only think it's because there are so many rules
What evidence is that the rules are enforced arbitrarily?

It seems like pretty much everyone gets their liquids confiscated. It seems as though they stop everything that they catch, but aren't actually that good at catching things.
I've forgotten to take out my little baggie of toiletries, and not been yelled at. I've had tubes of more than 3 oz in the baggie and not had them confiscated.
Because they didn't catch them. It's not like they knew you had them and decided they didn't care.

And anyway I don't see why this
They won't let you fly with a 3-inch blade, but you can have 10-inch bamboo knitting needles in your carry-on. How is that not arbitrary?
How is that an argument for banning pocket knives? If anything, this rule change makes it less arbitrary.
Yeah, it's people's fault! Stupid people.
People as opposed to what?
posted by delmoi at 10:38 AM on March 9, 2013


What kills me about the TSA is Republicans seem to be for it. A huge expansion of government, a giant subsidization of private industry on the tax payer's dime, further governmental encroachment on personal liberties, a denial of Constitutional Rights (and an abandonment of the Bill of Rights), and a shining example of waste.

It's like that party isn't at all in favor of the things they claim to be. Not that the Democrats fare any better here.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:40 AM on March 9, 2013


I'm merely advocating for the simplicity of rules. If people can't be trusted to understand a simple "no blades" rule, they can't be trusted to understand a rule with added qualifications like 2.36 inches or less. Call me crazy, but I don't think that intuitive rules for public consumption should require memorizing things past a decimal point. Apparently I live in a very different world from people who can afford to fly but who can't live without a knife for a day.

Although I do live in a world where I was threatened with a knife in a public transit situation and, although it was probably larger than 2.36 inches, that hardly mattered, because the dude was not a rational actor. People are always assuming, "I'm a rational actor and this rule doesn't make sense for me." The rules aren't there just for rational people, they're there to prevent insane people from feeling emboldened to do insane things. If you're going to ban a 3 inch knife, it's totally arbitrary to set any lower limit at all at that point.

I see that people are interpreting "less than 2.36 inches" and "more than 2.36 inches" as two different rules and one rule is better than two and one ban results in more freedom than two bans. My point is that that is a silly place to draw a line.
posted by Skwirl at 10:41 AM on March 9, 2013


Look, like, we all get that everyone is attached to particular objects, and finds them culturally appropriate but, sometimes others don't, and that all the reasons they like things are good reasons and nobody here ever tried anything bad, and that one time the TSA person did that thing which sucked, and air travel isn't quite perfect and so sometime some other things suck, and we know it would all be better if they just fixed that one particular thing, which everyone totally agrees on, and then there'd be no more problems.


But there are literally two and only two questions that can possibly be relevant here: are the knives in question a risk to the safety of the flight, and are they a risk to the safety of the crew. That's really, really it. I'm sorry this thing or that thing happened which sucked, but that's not a rational basis for deciding how to make air travel safe.
posted by kiltedtaco at 10:44 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


You have to give the same information that you do when applying for a federal security clearance.

To be sure, this is the more interesting conversation to have. The problem with profiling of any sort is that a black hat organization can keep feeding individuals through the process in dry runs until they get a known green-light individual and then they can invest their resources in using that pre-screened individual for an attack.
posted by Skwirl at 10:44 AM on March 9, 2013


If you're going to ban a 3 inch knife, it's totally arbitrary to set any lower limit at all at that point.

I agree with you there -- I'd be totally OK with no restrictions on blades of any kind - bowie knives, swords, battle axes, whatever. Nobody's going to be crashing a plane with a blade anymore.
posted by sriracha at 10:49 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The 9/11 hijackings worked because people didn't resist.

Yeah, it's people's fault! Stupid people.


Why do you think they're stupid? Seems bizarre and callous to blame them when they didn't realize what was going to happen, and they were encouraged to be passive by the people who were supposed to know what was best.

So, wow, I'd say to throttle back on criticism of the murder victims...

(Or, to disengage from fighting-snark-with-snark mode: to (correctly) point out that the highjackings succeeded because people didn't resist is not to blame the people who didn't resist. It's pretty low to try to defeat a true point by pretending that the point contains an unfair criticism of some unfortunate person...)
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:49 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree that culture has a lot to do with this. My grandfather carried a leatherman and a swiss army knife everywhere. He also drove a Rambler around with a butane spot welder in the back and a complete set of mechanic's tools. He could fix anything anywhere and everyone knew this.

Since he died I have only ever met one person who carries a knife daily, a 20 year-old-kid who has an >8 inch serrated monster looking thing "for work." He always tells people to step back before he takes it out to cut a ziptie off or open a box. TSA would be doing us a favor by confiscating that.

TSA once confiscated my keys because I had a mini-flat head screwdriver on the ring, I had to pull them out of the trash and while being "supervised" remove the screwdriver and throw it away.

It is all theater but they should at least be allowed to look at an item and deem it "probably safe."
posted by M Edward at 10:50 AM on March 9, 2013


If 250 passengers can not subdue a guy with a 3.5" blade, something is very wrong.

I just don't get this line of thinking. Because it is inconvenient to temporarily not have your swiss army knife on you, the rest of us must be willing and able to jump up and subdue potential terrorists or just random crazies at any moment? W

I think someone mentioned it earlier but what is the reason they SHOULD be allowed on?
posted by bquarters at 10:52 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apparently I live in a very different world from people who can afford to fly but who can't live without a knife for a day.

I'm not sure what "for a day" means, whether you're assuming they can just buy another knife or that everybody takes day-long trips, but you're getting back to this silly hyperbole so I'll repeat what I said earlier: "Yes, of course those people will 'survive.'" That isn't the measure of whether government should prohibit things, however.

You're right that simple rules are easier for everybody. Former TSA chief Kip Hawley, quoted above, advocates a simple rule: Blades are allowed on planes. Knives, machetes, battle axes, bring 'em all. That's a simple rule. It would be easy to enforce and wouldn't require any quibbling about whether a particular blade measures 2.36 inches. And as he notes, the more fundamental idea is that TSA could then focus its attention exclusively on things that can actually destroy an airplane.

I suspect there's a more fundamental point of confusion here. Some people feel that TSA's job is to keep everybody safe on the airplane. Others feel that TSA's job is to prevent the airplane from being destroyed. That could be a complex discussion but I would suggest the latter is feasible to achieve while the former is not.
posted by cribcage at 10:52 AM on March 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


In Alaska if you fly instate airlines there is no security. You can roll up 30 minutes before your flight leaves and stroll directly from the parking lot onto the plane with your coffee in one hand, a knife on your belt and all the knitting needles your can cram in your purse. No one bats an eye. Where are you going to take your hijacked aircraft? Bethel? It's like a timewarp back to the 90s.
posted by fshgrl at 10:53 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


bquarters: "I just don't get this line of thinking. Because it is inconvenient to temporarily not have your swiss army knife on you, the rest of us must be willing and able to jump up and subdue potential terrorists or just random crazies at any moment?

I think someone mentioned it earlier but what is the reason they SHOULD be allowed on?
"
The same reason they're allowed on the bus and the train.
posted by brokkr at 10:55 AM on March 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


But there are literally two and only two questions that can possibly be relevant here: are the knives in question a risk to the safety of the flight, and are they a risk to the safety of the crew. That's really, really it. I'm sorry this thing or that thing happened which sucked, but that's not a rational basis for deciding how to make air travel safe.

Not true.

The question in this vicinity is, rather:

Does the threat posed by the item outweigh the legitimate interest people have in carrying it onboard?

Your standard entails that any risk is unacceptable. But that's absurd. laptops are a risk, but presumably you aren't advocating a no laptops policy. Flights would be safer if people weren't allowed to carry anything. They'd be safer if people weren't allowed clothes, as concealment would be less of an issue.

Your standard is a zero-risk standard.

In fact, what we need to do is balance costs and benefits.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:57 AM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think this is a good start, and we need to loosen restrictions more. The TSA rules actually hurt the economy, and discourage travel and tourism in the US.
posted by empath at 10:59 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The same reason they're allowed on the bus and the train.

Um, it's not quite the same. But again, I can't refute the American logic of "I want to do what I want to do"...whether it's knives, guns, whatever.
posted by bquarters at 10:59 AM on March 9, 2013


2.36 inches isn't arbitrary. It's 60mm, which is the size of a normal-sized Swiss Army knife blade.

My Leatherman is still illegal to carry on, as it has a long-ish blade and the blade locks. A box cutter is still illegal to carry on, as it also has a locking blade. IMO, it's the locking blade that's key, more than anything. I would never want to get into an alercation with my non-locking Swiss Army knife, as it's likely to close onto my fingers. I'd rather use one of the mechanical pencils in my bag. Even with a locking blade, you are likely to have your hand slip over the blade in an altercation unless your knife has a guard (which are also still banned).

I think someone mentioned it earlier but what is the reason they SHOULD be allowed on?

Why should I be allowed a mechanical pencil, or knitting needles, or any hard, sharp-ish object? A small pocket knife with a non-locking blade is quite literally no more dangerous than those allowed items, in fact, maybe less so for the reasons I've outlined. Why should I be allowed anything that could be used to bludgeon, or strangle? We should ban hardcover books, stringed instruments (the strings can be used to strangle, and a violin E-string is pretty darn sharp, actually).
posted by dirigibleman at 11:06 AM on March 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm merely advocating for the simplicity of rules. If people can't be trusted to understand a simple "no blades" rule, they can't be trusted to understand a rule with added qualifications like 2.36 inches or less.
No one is saying people can't be trusted with a "no blades" rule.
Although I do live in a world where I was threatened with a knife in a public transit situation and, although it was probably larger than 2.36 inches, that hardly mattered, because the dude was not a rational actor.
So? Was there a risk that this person was somehow going to cause the bus or train or whatever to blow up or crash? If not, it's not the TSA's problem.
The rules aren't there just for rational people, they're there to prevent insane people from feeling emboldened to do insane things.
Those are the rules in a prison. We don't need to treat airplanes and flight attendants as if they were prisons and prison guards. Everywhere other then prisons or mental institutions, we make no effort to prevent insane people from doing insane things with small knives.

On airplanes, we also try to prevent terrorists from committing terrorist acts. That's it.
I see that people are interpreting "less than 2.36 inches" and "more than 2.36 inches" as two different rules and one rule is better than two and one ban results in more freedom than two bans.
In the past, you couldn't take small knives on planes. Now, you can. That is clearly an increase in freedom.
But there are literally two and only two questions that can possibly be relevant here: are the knives in question a risk to the safety of the flight, and are they a risk to the safety of the crew. That's really, really it. I'm sorry this thing or that thing happened which sucked, but that's not a rational basis for deciding how to make air travel safe.
Again, the TSA's job is not to protect the safety of the crew - it is to prevent terrorist attacks that cause the plane to crash or explode. The question is whether or not these blades can be used in an effective terrorist attack. And the obvious answer is no.
I just don't get this line of thinking. Because it is inconvenient to temporarily not have your swiss army knife on you, the rest of us must be willing and able to jump up and subdue potential terrorists or just random crazies at any moment?
You have to do that whether or not small knives are banned. A terrorist is not going to be able to get through the re-enforced cockpit door whether or not you jump on him.
I think someone mentioned it earlier but what is the reason they SHOULD be allowed on?
1) The TSA was confiscating thousands of them, and inconviencing people for no reason - most likely people just forgot, or didn't know about the rules. 2) Not doing that would probably save time.
But again, I can't refute the American logic of "I want to do what I want to do"...whether it's knives, guns, whatever.
Well right. This is America, and we don't ban things for no good reason.
posted by delmoi at 11:06 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


But there are literally two and only two questions that can possibly be relevant here: are the knives in question a risk to the safety of the flight, and are they a risk to the safety of the crew.

No, those aren't really the only questions. Another question is whether air travel security has gotten so batshitinsane that people are deciding to fly less and drive more, leading to more highway-related deaths (PDF).

Or on preview, what Fists O' Fury said.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:07 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


They are also going to let small terrorists onto the plane now...
posted by DreamerFi at 11:07 AM on March 9, 2013


What evidence is that the rules are enforced arbitrarily?

Did you not read the list of stuff I've experienced and witnessed? Oh, you did - and cherry-picked out the toiletry bag thing as "Oh, they just missed it." But hoodie-on/hoodie-off, shoes, kids with shoes - oh, and I forgot, old people with shoes! - and so on and etc. Where in the rules does it say that I can't have a sweater or hoodie on when I go through security? (I've also been asked to take off a regular crew-neck sweater.) If it is a rule, then how is enforcing sometimes but not others not arbitrary?

And the "oh they just missed it" - well, when the list of contraband is this long, it's hardly surprising that some contraband is missed or (more likely) ignored.
posted by rtha at 11:08 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well right. This is America, and we don't ban things for no good reason.

This is hamburger, right?
posted by rtha at 11:09 AM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Did you not read the list of stuff I've experienced and witnessed?
Do you think the TSA agents were aware you had those things, and just let you pass - or did they miss them? Because the studies that have been done indicate they miss a lot of stuff.
posted by delmoi at 11:09 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]



Your standard entails that any risk is unacceptable.

I understand if you interpreted it that way, because some people really do think that's the case, but I actually consider it plainly obvious that there's no such thing as a no-risk scenario and that striving for such is unreasonable, otherwise we'd all be in handcuffs when we got on a plane.

Does the threat posed by the item outweigh the legitimate interest people have in carrying it onboard?

This I disagree with, because it leads us back into the territory of how emotionally attached people are to certain things and implies a set of widely open-ended questions about what is 'legitimate interest'.

You can ask the question of "is this object more likely to endanger a flight or a crewmember than a defined threshold level of acceptable risk" completely independently of that. That is how every piece of hardware on the plane itself is certified, without reference to how desirable it is to have.
posted by kiltedtaco at 11:10 AM on March 9, 2013


Do you think the TSA agents were aware you had those things, and just let you pass - or did they miss them?

Here. I will quote myself: I've gone through security and been asked to take off my hoodie; on the return trip, no one told me to take it off. I've been told be keep my shoes on; no, take them off.

Did they not notice I was wearing a sweater or hoodie? Did the TSA agents who told me it was fine to keep my shoes on somehow miss I was wearing shoes?
posted by rtha at 11:14 AM on March 9, 2013


You can ask the question of "is this object more likely to endanger a flight or a crewmember than a defined threshold level of acceptable risk" completely independently of that.
The problem is, it's not the TSA's job to answer that question. The question they need to answer is "is this object likely to cause the plane to be destroyed" Either by crashing or being blown up.

Almost everyone everywhere is at risk of being stabbed by someone with a pocket knife. What is so special about flight attendants that they need to be protected from something that no one, except for prison guards, is?
posted by delmoi at 11:14 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did they not notice I was wearing a sweater or hoodie? Did the TSA agents who told me it was fine to keep my shoes on somehow miss I was wearing shoes?
I don't doubt that the TSA is highly incompetent. What I meant was whether or not they were knowingly letting you carry on banned items like liquids. And even if they did, I don't see how that is an argument for banning short knives. Everyone knows the TSA sucks at actually enforcing their rules. But I don't see how that's an argument for having dumb rules to begin with.
posted by delmoi at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2013


The 9/11 hijackers used the fact that we trained crews and passengers to go along with hijacker demands
This cannot be repeated often enough. Saying "do what we say and you won't get hurt" didn't even work for the entire day on 9/11. People had already forgotten this when Richard Reid was subdued by his seatmate a couple of months later.

Interesting quote from Kip Hawley above. I wish he'd had that change of heart when he could have done something constructive about it.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


What is so special about flight attendants that they need to be protected from something that no one, except for prison guards, is?

They are in a closed tube with said passengers, possibly for hours at a time with no way of escaping or calling for any sort of law enforcement. I thought that was pretty obvious. Have a read through some of the unruly passenger incidents if you would like to see how it plays out. Turbulence is actually a far more common cause of injury to cabin crew than unruly passengers, but there's still no reason to reject the flight attendants' concerns out of hand.
posted by kiltedtaco at 11:24 AM on March 9, 2013


Oh and in case anyone asks "well what about the other passengers": the flight attendants are usually the ones denying drunk passengers more alcohol, or trying to make them cease whatever unruliness they're up to, and so are more likely to be the target of retribution than other passengers.
posted by kiltedtaco at 11:27 AM on March 9, 2013


Wanna hear something wacky and weird...? I still have my junior high school student handbook (circa mid-1970s, no need to put too fine a point on my actual age) that states any pocket knives with blades longer than four inches were not allowed on campus. Hard to believe that there was a time when any sort of weaponry was acceptable under school rules.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:27 AM on March 9, 2013


Question:
Should children or teens be allowed to bring knives under the length limit to school? There are other ways of cutting cake, paper, tape, or zip ties, you know.

Sure, a kid could threaten a teacher or a fellow student, and might be able to send them to the hospital, but they probably wouldn't kill them... and besides, the other students could resist, and jump them!

I guess I would ask: how much of the bellyaching we hear on this issue is basically about people feeling emasculated?
posted by markkraft at 11:33 AM on March 9, 2013


They are in a closed tube with said passengers, possibly for hours at a time with no way of escaping or calling for any sort of law enforcement.

So is everyone else. That's why we have to trust each other.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:35 AM on March 9, 2013


It's not an argument for banning short knives. It's an argument for consistent enforcement and training, which is itself an argument for a shorter and more sense-making set of rules.
posted by rtha at 11:35 AM on March 9, 2013


I hope the TSApes can get their act together before my flight tomorrow
posted by Renoroc at 11:37 AM on March 9, 2013


Should children or teens be allowed to bring knives under the length limit to school? There are other ways of cutting cake, paper, tape, or zip ties, you know.

Sure, and why don't we let them bring in booze, too? Oh right, because they are children.
posted by empath at 11:43 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


In short, I think the airline workers want to keep potentially dangerous weapons off their planes for the same reason teachers want to keep them out of schools:
they have ample evidence of their customers behaving like unruly children.

The next question I'd ask though, is that if the airlines and their workers want certain rules for their safety and avoidance of grief and hassles that the FAA deems as unnecessary to maintain security, who wins that argument... and who should pay for it?

Maybe each airline should be responsible for their own boarding security, because ultimately their customers are going to pay for it either way... but something tells me that ticket prices would go up and that they wouldn't like the liability.
posted by markkraft at 11:45 AM on March 9, 2013


"Sure, and why don't we let them bring in booze, too? Oh right, because they are children."

Children who, under these new guidelines, could bring knives onto planes.
posted by markkraft at 11:47 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


rtha - "They won't let you fly with a 3-inch blade, but you can have 10-inch bamboo knitting needles in your carry-on. How is that not arbitrary?"

Bamboo knitting needles aren't an issue - they're blunter than ballpoint pens, as are almost all knitting needles, whether bamboo, wood, or metal. The few exceptions (metal non-circular lace knitting needles, mostly) will get confiscated if the TSA finds them in a carry on - the points on those are sharp enough to cause an issue.
posted by Wylla at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2013


The problem is, it's not the TSA's job to answer that question. The question they need to answer is "is this object likely to cause the plane to be destroyed" Either by crashing or being blown up.

If you can find the piece of legislation that mandates the TSA to protect only against threats to the aircraft as a whole, then I'll believe you. From what I see, the TSA has a very broad mandate to conduct "screening", but the precise purposes are left vague. The most specific language I can find is
[The TSA shall] provide for the screening of all passengers and property, including United States mail, cargo, carry-on and checked baggage, and other articles, that will be carried aboard a passenger aircraft operated by an air carrier or foreign air carrier in air transportation or intrastate air transportation.
(49 USC § 44901, as referred to in 49 USC § 114 (e) (1))

Not much detail, eh.
posted by kiltedtaco at 11:59 AM on March 9, 2013


>>"They are in a closed tube with said passengers, possibly for hours at a time with no way of escaping or calling for any sort of law enforcement.

>So is everyone else. That's why we have to trust each other."


Fine. But first, I'm going to down a few Valium... followed by a couple drinks from the stewardess. Hey stewardess!!!
posted by markkraft at 12:05 PM on March 9, 2013


Try using the security that El Al employs and the folks they hire and train to do it...it is very very comprehensive and works...I know from experience in NY how well it works.
posted by Postroad at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2013


They are in a closed tube with said passengers, possibly for hours at a time with no way of escaping or calling for any sort of law enforcement.

Just consider the many other places you find yourself, on a daily basis, where you are just as vulnerable. Do you only shop at stores where they frisk all customers beforehand? And how often does law enforcement stop an assault? Almost never.

Why is being on an airplane such a special case?
posted by orme at 12:12 PM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


They are in a closed tube with said passengers, possibly for hours at a time with no way of escaping or calling for any sort of law enforcement. I thought that was pretty obvious. Have a read through some of the unruly passenger incidents if you would like to see how it plays out
So should we also ban small knives on busses and trains as well? The idea that we need to treat an airplane like a prison just seems like an insane over-reaction to me. Yes, there are going to be unruly people every once in a while. Yes, it's a slight increase in risk. But the TSA's job is to prevent terrorist attacks, it's not to protect flight attendants from unruly passengers.

Like I said, if the airline was really that scared of their passengers, they could setup their own pre-boarding security. But as I said, they would never do this because it would obviously not be worth the cost or hassle, and everyone would stop using them.

There is also a salience issue here. Unruly passenger stories are pretty rare, but we hear about them because they're interesting. But there are 800 million flights in the US each year. The vast majority of travelers don't cause problems.
Should children or teens be allowed to bring knives under the length limit to school? There are other ways of cutting cake, paper, tape, or zip ties, you know.
Uh, I have no idea? I would certainly trust the students at the highschool I went to with short knives, I don't even know if it was against the rules. And none of the schools I went to had any kind of screening system, kids probably brought pocket knives to school all the time.
same reason teachers want to keep them out of schools: they have ample evidence of their customers behaving like unruly children.
Except, as I said, there are 800 million flights each year in the US. How many of them involve violent confrontation with flight attendants? It's something that's probably very rare.
It's not an argument for banning short knives. It's an argument for consistent enforcement and training, which is itself an argument for a shorter and more sense-making set of rules.
So you're saying we should ban short knives because TSA agents are too stupid to tell the difference between knives longer then 2.36 inches and knives shorter then 2.36 inches?

The TSA obviously thinks that their agents will be able to handle it. This isn't happening in a vacuum, the TSA actually has been confiscating tens of thousands of these things, so it's not like a completely theoretical issue, people are losing their property unnecessarily.
If you can find the piece of legislation that mandates the TSA to protect only against threats to the aircraft as a whole, then I'll believe you. From what I see, the TSA has a very broad mandate to conduct "screening", but the precise purposes are left vague. The most specific language I can find is
Well, I think it's fairly obvious why it was created, of course there was screening in the past and they took it over - but mainly that was about preventing criminal hijackings. And pre 9/11 you could carry small knives, and there were no problems.
posted by delmoi at 12:16 PM on March 9, 2013


This is why "big data" is useless. The TSA can mine their databases of how many pocket knifes they confiscated vs. actual threats stopped. They can calculate wait time impacts and costs. They can determine that these low threat incidents are limiting their resources from higher priority items. The data is all there. Politically its a non-starter. Schools, policing, fire protection and other services fall into the same nonsense. We will continue to sacrafice things that are good for we have the data, but we can't act on it.
posted by humanfont at 12:18 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, IIRC, we could bring small pocket knives to school when I was in high school.

We actually did have a stabbing (bullied kid turns on the bully, chases him down the hall, stabs him in the chest; bully had also bullied me pretty badly and consistently, so this gave me some complicated feelings) - turns out it's really hard to kill someone with a small pocket knife.

Of course, in my entire familiarity with that high school - about twenty years, based on living close to it, attending it and having a little brother who also went there - there weren't any other stabbings or much worse than a fist fight.

I'm not sure how we would have prevented kids from bringing small knives anyway, short of searching them regularly or putting them through metal detectors, and if you treat people like prisoners and teachers like cops, you'll turn school into a prison quick enough.

If you want to know a bizarre American mentality, it is "everyone is constantly yearning to kill each other, and only the banning of small pocket knives generally used for cutting up fruit and trimming cord can prevent this".
posted by Frowner at 12:28 PM on March 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think someone mentioned it earlier but what is the reason they SHOULD be allowed on?

Everything should be allowed unless there is a good reason to ban it. That is the whole point of "freedom".
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:28 PM on March 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Children who, under these new guidelines, could bring knives onto planes.

I've had a pocket knife since I was 12 years old. I probably used pocket knives before that. I feel far safer sitting next to a kid with a small pocket knife in their bag than next to a drunk person with pretty much anything sharper than a blanket or denser than styrofoam.

And that brings me to the real issue. How many of these "unruly passengers" are actually drunk? If you really want to ban something, banning alcohol and banning visibly drunk people from boarding would probably reduce the rate of unruly passengers from tiny to almost unheard of.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:29 PM on March 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Everything should be allowed unless there is a good reason to ban it. That is the whole point of "freedom".

That's why I made the second comment right after. Can't refute this kind of logic. Back to my laundry.
posted by bquarters at 12:32 PM on March 9, 2013


"Why is being on an airplane such a special case?"

Maybe it should be treated like other places where they have problems with alcohol and drug use.

Delta Airlines: No knives... or glowsticks.
posted by markkraft at 12:32 PM on March 9, 2013


I don't get all the reaction over this. It seems common sense to me that in this context, an airplane at 35,000 feet, small weapons are out of place. You're not at a bar, a grocery store, or a shopping mall where an ambulance with first responders is 15-30 minutes away. So no, this is not like any other place, and those comparisons are dumb.

Kudos to Delta for standing up and saying, "I'd like the work environment for my employees to be as safe as possible."
posted by herda05 at 12:33 PM on March 9, 2013


Back to my laundry.

It isn't actually necessary to announce this.
posted by cribcage at 12:34 PM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


My grandfather carried a leatherman and a swiss army knife everywhere. He also drove a Rambler around....

Okay, I laughed. I drove to work today in a 49-year-old Rambler, just like most days. I also carry a pocket knife every day. That way I can repair the Rambler.

I manage without my pocket knife when I travel, but I miss the corkscrew and the bottle opener.
posted by Killick at 12:34 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


there are 800 million flights each year in the US. How many of them involve violent confrontation with flight attendants? It's something that's probably very rare.

Totally, I'm sure they are rare. But because I don't have the actual statistics, I'm not going to knee-jerk say that the flight attendants' unions are wrong to lobby for measures that improve their safety.

Well, I think it's fairly obvious why it was created, of course there was screening in the past and they took it over - but mainly that was about preventing criminal hijackings.

That's your understanding yes, but your understanding isn't what determines whether the TSA has the authority or mandate to enforce rules that would impact cabin crew safety.

And pre 9/11 you could carry small knives, and there were no problems.

You don't know that. You weren't aware of any problems, but that doesn't mean there were none. The data really really matter here, not your conceptions of cabin crew safety or of what the TSA's "real job" is.

Speaking of data, I don't know where your 800 million flights per year number comes from, because the BTS reports more like 8 million.
posted by kiltedtaco at 12:41 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you don't get why people would want to carry a knife on an airplane, I suggest that's not what 99% of us who are happy about the ban stopping care about. To start with, it's not the journey but the destination. I don't want a knife on the plane per se, but wherever I'm going by plane. The plane is the way to get there. There are additional costs with checking bags, there are significant problems with lost bags and things stolen from bags, and there is the time wasted waiting for checked bags that in some cases can lead to missed connections.

And it's not knives that are really affected by this ban so much as multitools. Almost everything affected by this ban that people would bring on their trips are knives as part of a multi purpose tool, like a Swiss Army Knife. Most things that are knives alone or knives first will have longer blades or locking handle and still be banned. . My Leatherman Micra is to me a scissors first, tweezers second, screwdriver third and fourth, and a knife fifth. And because I don't use these things all that often, it's not practical to lug a heap of single purpose tools around for the off chance. But my Micra would have been great that time the screw came loose on my sunglasses, or the time I bought some fancy root beer on a hot day in Santa Monica, but didn't notice it wasn't a screw cap until I was halfway to the beach.

It's not people who want to carry knives on the plane, it's people who want to buy a bottle of wine for an impromptu picnic on their weekend getaway, or who want to open a clamshell package while on a work trip, or who get a sliver in their hotel room or something like that.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:42 PM on March 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


kiltedtaco: "
What is so special about flight attendants that they need to be protected from something that no one, except for prison guards, is?
They are in a closed tube with said passengers, possibly for hours at a time with no way of escaping or calling for any sort of law enforcement. I thought that was pretty obvious."
So you're saying we should also ban knives on ferries? (Okay, you can escape by jumping overboard, but that's no fun on the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam on a snowy night in February.)
posted by brokkr at 1:10 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


herda05: "I don't get all the reaction over this. It seems common sense to me that in this context, an airplane at 35,000 feet, small weapons are out of place."
... which is of course why the TSA allows you to bring a 4" pair of metal scissors and a 7" screwdriver on the plane, but not a 2" pocket knife.
posted by brokkr at 1:17 PM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speaking of tools that get confiscating prior to these rules, I had a waiter's corkscrew confiscated once. The reason? The half inch blade on it to cut foil. I specifically asked if it would be allowed if it didn't have that and told yes. I welcome a bit more rationality that acknowledges that tiny blades (that don't lock) are not really a risk. Yes, there are going to be edge cases where someone drunk or otherwise unruly is going to attack a flight attendant but they do already. Moreover, dangerous unruly passengers are rare -- that's why they make the news. On the other hand, inconvenience and cost associated with screening rules happens every day (as does lost or delayed luggage) so you don't hear about it. This rule doesn't significantly increase risks. But it does reduce confusion, delays and expense in security screening (and for those who don't want to check bags, reduces their inconvenience). I applaud the TSA starting to make explicit trade-offs on risk versus cost. The old rule costs too much money for the nearly non-existent risk it presents.
posted by R343L at 1:21 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why are pocket knives now more dangerous to the cabin crew and other passengers than they were in all the decades of passenger flight prior to That Date?
posted by rtha at 1:31 PM on March 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I manage without my pocket knife when I travel

ProTip: Put it in your checked luggage. Take it out when you land.

My dad has carried a pocket knife all his life and I only recently started mimicking him and found I use it all the time. It's a whole lot nicer for opening gifts from the Internets (Amazon, eBay, et al) than a pair of scissors. I got one of these because, (a) it's nice, and (b) Indiana Jones!
posted by pashdown at 1:36 PM on March 9, 2013


Before 9/11, did the airplane unions give a shit about small knives? I'm guessing not. Therefore, the union's concern is misplaced, and is proof positive that security theater does appear to work on the gullible.

On the other hand, they have a very strong point in regards to stream-lining the process. If the purpose of allowing small knives is for stream lining the process, rather than just being more reasonable about what's permitted -- the TSA has got it all wrong. Either they allow knives, or they don't.
But again, I can't refute the American logic of "I want to do what I want to do"...whether it's knives, guns, whatever.
Preach it brother! And absolutely no one can refute the logic of the one who takes his toys and runs away because of how absolutely *spoiled* people are for asking for real justification instead of believing whatever people tell them.
posted by smidgen at 1:46 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't get all the reaction over this. It seems common sense to me that in this context, an airplane at 35,000 feet, small weapons are out of place. You're not at a bar, a grocery store, or a shopping mall where an ambulance with first responders is 15-30 minutes away. So no, this is not like any other place, and those comparisons are dumb.
Why wasn't it a problem before 9/11?
That's your understanding yes, but your understanding isn't what determines whether the TSA has the authority or mandate to enforce rules that would impact cabin crew safety.
Right... but you are the ones demanding that the TSA change it's policy, not me. Remember?. They are allowing short knives. I say this is fine because they are not required to keep flight attendants as safe as prison guards.

Other people say the TSA is making a mistake because they need to keep flight attendants safe from extremely rare events, despite the fact the law doesn't require them to do so.

I'm certainly not arguing the TSA doesn't have the authority to do this, they obviously have the authority to do it, since they did it for years. But clearly they also don't have a mandate that requires them to do this, since they just stopped.

Remember, the argument is about whether or not the TSA made the wrong decision when they decided to allow small blades. I think it is OK, because it fits with my view of what the TSA is supposed to be worrying about.
posted by delmoi at 1:55 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't get all the reaction over this. It seems common sense to me that in this context, an airplane at 35,000 feet, small weapons are out of place. You're not at a bar, a grocery store, or a shopping mall where an ambulance with first responders is 15-30 minutes away. So no, this is not like any other place, and those comparisons are dumb.

Kudos to Delta for standing up and saying, "I'd like the work environment for my employees to be as safe as possible."


When analyzing security, appealing to common sense is a terrible idea. People don't think rationally about security, so common sense is often quite wrong. You have a flawed assumption in your statement -- you are assuming that screening for small knives is effective.

Knives _of any variety_ do not present a meaningful risk on a modern plane. The locking of cockpit doors prevents any catastrophic event, and history has shown that since 9/11, passengers will subdue the unruly on a flight.

The types of blades now allowed are particularly laughable as weapons. The blades do not lock, and the permitted handle styles are incredibly poor for maintaining grip when stabbing.

Ultimately, there's a massive taxpayer cost for enforcing these asinine rules, and absolutely no security benefit. It has been documented in multiple places that it is _trivial_ to get anything you want on an airplane -- multiple restaurants behind the screening checkpoints have 7" chef's knives in their kitchens. Delta isn't standing up for workplace safety; they're standing up for wasting money on things that don't actually increase the security of their flights.

And I always feel it necessary to point out that the best target for a terrorist is no longer an airplane; it's now a packed TSA screening line on a Monday morning.
posted by bfranklin at 2:07 PM on March 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Are nailclippers still dangerous?
posted by xtine at 2:22 PM on March 9, 2013


ProTip: Put it in your checked luggage. Take it out when you land.

Assuming it's still there. My father has lost 5 Spyderco knives in the past 9 years, all stolen out of his bags by the TSA.
posted by KathrynT at 2:22 PM on March 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, I got onto a plane at O'Hare with 2 Nalgene bottles full of water in my carryon last summer. The TSA agent said "Oh, are those for the baby?" gesturing at my 18-month-old. "Uh? Uh! Uh, YES, yes they are for the baby!" I said. "Ok, you're cool," she said. Never made me open them or anything.
posted by KathrynT at 2:25 PM on March 9, 2013


In the 1980s I took an international flight from Japan to the US and had my pocket knife confiscated. (They put it in an envelope for the pilot to carry and gave it back to be after the flight!) I don't remember the airline but it was one of the major ones.

So I'm not so sure about this 'why didn't they care before 9/11' argument. At least this one airline always had this policy. So I was pretty impressed that they are now allowing small pocket knives. At least from my experience, this is more permissive than they have ever been.
posted by eye of newt at 2:29 PM on March 9, 2013


I just learned that safety razor blades are banned, and I've been through security dozens of times with my old-school razor and extra blades. Maybe I can find some extra small blades to go with my extra small toothpaste and extra small shampoo to keep everyone safe.
posted by peeedro at 2:38 PM on March 9, 2013


Apropos of nothing, but I thought it interesting that the incident (more detailed account here) where a teenager was subdued and ultimately killed by fellow passengers occurred prior to 9/11.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:39 PM on March 9, 2013


Wanna hear something wacky and weird...? I still have my junior high school student handbook (circa mid-1970s, no need to put too fine a point on my actual age) that states any pocket knives with blades longer than four inches were not allowed on campus. Hard to believe that there was a time when any sort of weaponry was acceptable under school rules.

Oh, heck, when I was in elementary school it was not uncommon for us kids to come tromping in after waking up early to go squirrel or deer hunting, rifles included. Naturally, for safekeeping, we'd put them in the principal's office. This was in the 80s in a fairly rural area. We weren't always terrified of everything.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:44 PM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


So I'm not so sure about this 'why didn't they care before 9/11' argument.

I flew at least once a month in 1999, and never had my pocket knife confiscated. I flew a lot in the 80s and 90s as well, and also never (not on domestic or international flights) had one confiscated. There was no blanket policy prohibiting pocket knives the way there is now.
posted by rtha at 2:55 PM on March 9, 2013


"Published: September 13, 2001

BOSTON, Sept. 12 — While it is illegal to carry cans of hairspray, sparklers and rat poison onto passenger jets, Federal Aviation Administration regulations have for many years allowed passengers to carry knives with blades up to four inches long on commercial flights.

That changed today, as the agency announced new, far stricter security guidelines for airports nationwide. The measures were part of the first broad regulatory response to the hijackings Tuesday by terrorists, at least some of whom wielded knives and box cutters."
posted by rtha at 3:00 PM on March 9, 2013


Seconded. I've been forced to mail my Swiss Army Knife home from the airport several times. If 250 passengers can not subdue a guy with a 3.5" blade, something is very wrong.

I would never, ever, ever bet my saga on the guy behind me running in after the psycho I'm grappling with stabs me.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:02 PM on March 9, 2013


herda05: "I don't get all the reaction over this. It seems common sense to me that in this context, an airplane at 35,000 feet, small weapons are out of place. You're not at a bar, a grocery store, or a shopping mall where an ambulance with first responders is 15-30 minutes away."

That's the awesome thing about airplanes. If you're flying over land, you can be at an airport in 15-30 minutes. And thanks to the magic of radio, there can be an ambulance waiting when you get there.

We managed to get along fine with any knife under four inches being allowed on airplanes before 9/11. There weren't daily reports of airplane stabbings. This fear is completely unfounded. We had a ~30 year experiment in allowing larger knives. Why do you think the results would be different today?
posted by wierdo at 3:09 PM on March 9, 2013


People are very stabby nowadays.
posted by found missing at 3:12 PM on March 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Good.. I lost my leatherman micra I'd had for years on my second-to-last plane trip because I forgot to put it in checked luggage. It's this sinister looking multi-tool.

I guess that means a little less revenue for some of the organizations the TSA gives the items to.

I still remember early in grad school taking it out of my pocket to cut open a box of books in my new office, and one of my fellow students from a city looked at me in horror and said "You carry a knife????"
...
Since he died I have only ever met one person who carries a knife daily, a 20 year-old-kid who has an >8 inch serrated monster looking thing "for work."

Like others have mentioned, this is likely a cultural issue. Not to scare you, but chances are many of the people you see every day actually are carrying pocket knives. They just aren't showboating assholes like the guy you mentioned.

Have you ever needed to change batteries in an electronic item or toy and found the battery cover had screws on it? Pull out the pocket knife with Philips head screwdriver. Stupid tamper seal on a bottle giving you issues? A quick starting cut and you're good. Postal packaging? Pocket knife scissors will help you there.

I think someone mentioned it earlier but what is the reason they SHOULD be allowed on?

For the reason I mentioned above, it's a useful tool. But more importantly, because of this very question. We shouldn't be asking why we should be allowed to do things, we should be asking why the government should be allowed to let us not do things.

We have a Republican Tea Party member filibustering the use of drones against US citizens in the US, and liberals asking why we should be allowed to do something. This is crazy, and the exact opposite of the left and right only a couple decades ago.

The TSA have generated a fearful populace. Their policies and the system built around them post-911 were not only meant to deter terrorism, but to extend a conservative empire. And that conservative empire was meant to extend everywhere, physically and mentally.
posted by formless at 3:24 PM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


You are all forgetting the NRA solution to stabbing on planes. They simply won't happen if every passenger is also armed with a 2.36 inch knife.
posted by breath at 3:24 PM on March 9, 2013


You are all forgetting the NRA solution to stabbing on planes. They simply won't happen if every passenger is also armed with a 2.36 inch knife.

The problem wasn't a rash of stabbings on planes.

The threat of terrorists highjacking a plane with boxcutters ended on 9/11, once passengers realized they were in for something more sinister than a Cuban vacation. It saddens me to see this slight relaxation of the security theatre met with such fear.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:39 PM on March 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


I just learned that safety razor blades are banned, and I've been through security dozens of times with my old-school razor and extra blades.

Yeah, me too. I wonder if this is one of those things where the TSA people just think "eh, who really cares?" and you only get in trouble with the new guy takes over the x-ray machine?
posted by yoink at 4:17 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


peeedro: "I just learned that safety razor blades are banned ..."
But but but safety!
posted by brokkr at 4:21 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been an opponent of the knife thing since it was implemented (was it a month or so after 9/11 or right away?) No one is arguing that effectively removing knives from the cabin provides a slight amount of additional security, the problem is that the more low priority things you are screening for the less time you have to 1) pay attention to the mannerisms of the passengers going through the line, and 2) thoroughly examine things that can be a high risk device for blowing up the plane. If your average understaffed TSA checkpoint has to devote 50% of it's time to small metallic objects, how are they going to notice the big stuff. Fluids are more high risk, because it's so damn difficult to screen for things that could be mixed to become explosive, especially if it's not important to the person doing the mixing when the explosive reaction occurs.

You have to ask yourself what the role of the TSA is, preventing large scale disasters or providing for the safety of individual passengers and crew. In theory I have no problem with the latter, but in practice it's always going to compromise the former. I also don't think that airline crew deserve any more individual protection than bus drivers, train conductors, etc...

Basically I think the people who called this as an excuse to collect checked bag fees are correct.

This is totally aside from the inherent problems with this whole method of security, which is that it's basically expending the same amount or more of effort on every legitimate passenger as it does on potential malefactors. It's been pointed out here before that the Israelis have much better security with less hassle to travelers.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:25 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, they have a very strong point in regards to stream-lining the process. If the purpose of allowing small knives is for stream lining the process, rather than just being more reasonable about what's permitted -- the TSA has got it all wrong. Either they allow knives, or they don't.

No, I think it's clear that this change does streamline the process. Under the old policy, detecting any sort of knife required screener intervention. In the best of cases, this required the agent to speak to the passenger and explain why they couldn't bring it along. The passenger could surrender it there, *or* collect their things, and return to the non-secure side to deal with the item (holding up the line *and* effectively adding another person to be screened later). It also had the possibility of escalating into some form of back-and-forth which took further screener time to deal with. In some cases (such as the low-security TSA preCheck lines), it required a written report (happened to me; the agent had to spend 5 minutes handwriting a report that basically said 'dumbass decided to carry his bag on at the last minute and forgot he had packed a nail-clipper with a manicure knife'). All of these outcomes take screener time and attention and slow checkpoint throughput.

Now, under the new policy, we can think of knives as falling into three categories: A) knives that are *obviously* longer than the limit, B) knives that are visually close to the limit, and C) knives that are *obviously* shorter than the limit. Let's see how the change impacts throughput for an item in each of these cases:

A) Works just like before. Screener has to speak to passenger and the possible outcomes are identical---no change to throughput based on the policy change.

B) Now requires screener to handle the knife and determine if it's above/below the limit. Probably reasonable to assume a 50/50 split. In the cases where it's over the limit, we have the same outcomes but have *reduced* throughput somewhat because of the time needed to evaluate blade length. In the cases where it's under the limit, the screener hands it back to the passenger and nothing else is required. We've traded the throughput hit from needing someone to surrender the item or leave the secured area for the throughput hit from needing to measure the blade. My personal feeling is that the hit from measuring is less than the hit from having them surrender the item or leave, but let's call it even just for the sake of this exercise. So as a result of the policy change---a slight reduction in throughput for 50% of the cases (over length) and no change in the other 50% (under length)

C) Screener need do nothing---significant increase to throughput based on the policy change.

So, just on it's face, we have one case that produces no change, one case that produces a slight reduction in throughput, and one case that produces a significant increase in throughput.

Couple that with the fact that case C) is *by far* the most common scenario---most pocket knives have blades that are obviously at or below the length limit (the limit was chosen based on the blade size of a standard swiss army knife)---and you see that this policy change will indeed streamline the screening process.
posted by BlueDuke at 4:37 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Look, all I want is the ability to bring my fancy, expensive Black Widow darts on a plane to England so I can go into a pub and have some dude decimate me at cricket with a bunch of sticks tied to thumbtacks.

Is that too much to ask?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:47 PM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, me too. I wonder if this is one of those things where the TSA people just think "eh, who really cares?" and you only get in trouble with the new guy takes over the x-ray machine?

Honestly, I think it's more hazardous for the TSA to confiscate them. The last time I had mine confiscated, the lady had no idea what my razor was or how to take it apart. I was prohibited from doing it for her (why? Was I going to go on a rampage with a double sided razor blade? LOL) and had to stand there while she fiddled with it and finally got to screwing it off by gripping it by the sharp edges. As if the flimsy nitrile gloves would protect her.
posted by indubitable at 4:51 PM on March 9, 2013


All I know is the TSA better get just as many furlough days this year as I do, and have to cut out as much expensive stupid shit as we've already done at work. (Like, small "weapon" bans on planes.)
posted by ctmf at 4:58 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


ReeMonster: "Yeah, it's people's fault! Stupid people."

There isn't any victim blaming here. Prior to 9/11 the prevailing wisdom was to cooperate and everything would be fine. Three planes into 9/11 and the wisdom had already changed.

M Edward: "Since he died I have only ever met one person who carries a knife daily, a 20 year-old-kid who has an >8 inch serrated monster looking thing "for work.""

This is kind of amazing to me. In both of the serious jobs I've had in the last 20 years (IT tech and electrician) the vast majority of my colleagues carried either a knife or a multi tool. I'm fairly certain that applies to most tradespeople, warehousing and delivery people. Plus all the people carrying a knife for self defence. My guess is unless you only associate with people so high in management they don't have to phone tech support then you probably know lots of people of who carry a knife semi regularly and just don't know it. (Or maybe I really do live in the Wild West the local Tourism Board Propaganda would have me believe)

Oriole Adams: "Hard to believe that there was a time when any sort of weaponry was acceptable under school rules."

Lots of places you could bring your rifle to school and even use them in school sanctioned shooting events.

Wylla: "Bamboo knitting needles aren't an issue - they're blunter than ballpoint pens, as are almost all knitting needles, whether bamboo, wood, or metal."

Are those little hand held pencil sharpeners allowed on planes?

herda05: "I don't get all the reaction over this. It seems common sense to me that in this context, an airplane at 35,000 feet, small weapons are out of place. You're not at a bar, a grocery store, or a shopping mall where an ambulance with first responders is 15-30 minutes away. So no, this is not like any other place, and those comparisons are dumb."

Hard to imagine there are very many flights more than 30 minutes from medical aid in the continental US.

pashdown: "ProTip: Put it in your checked luggage. Take it out when you land."

Theft from and loss of luggage is rampant at airports; I wouldn't put anything I wouldn't mind replacing at the other end in checked luggage.
posted by Mitheral at 6:21 PM on March 9, 2013


herda05: "I don't get all the reaction over this. It seems common sense to me that in this context, an airplane at 35,000 feet, small weapons are out of place."

I think this is the disconnect. A two and a half inch blade is a tool, not a small weapon. Blades found on multitools (which is what we are talking about) are functionally useless as stabbing weapons. If I were going to get in a fight, I'd do a lot better to use the pair of titanium sticks I habitually use to hold my hair in place (100% allowed, before and after 2001) as a weapon than a folding pocket knife.

I used to carry a swiss army knife and finally stopped because I got tired of having to throw them out when I travel. (I tend to forget that I have one in my purse, because it's an unremarkable item.) For some reason, flying out of the NYC metropolitan area, nobody ever noticed and then I'd have to decide on my way home whether I wanted to hunt down a post office and then go through security again from scratch or to just let the TSA toss my pocket knife.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:52 PM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Boy the USPS is really missing out by not having postal kiosks at airport screening lines.
posted by Mitheral at 7:25 PM on March 9, 2013


In the TSA document, only Victorinox knives fit. This rule change is SO plainly bought-and-sold by their pet K Street lobbyists that it makes me roll my eyes until they hurt.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:42 PM on March 9, 2013


I have a knife with a molded grip that is SMALLER than the "baby SAK" in the pictures: SOG made a promotional lock-blade knife (with a tanto tip) that's a hair under two inches long, and as thin as maybe a credit card. Not allowed on the plane, oh, no -- but it's so small I can barely hold it!

And many of us do useful stuff with the multitool in our pocket -- just ask about the conversion stories of how many folks gabbled about "what do you need a knife for?" and then returned a few minutes later and innocently asked for a small scissors, tweezer, file, bottle-opener or...knife!

In flight? You bet! I travel with my four kids, and you can be damn sure one of them will need batteries replaced, a package opened (because we always have new toys for the return trip!), or a string cut, and of course they know I have a multitool on me all the time -- except when we are stuck in a plane for four hours and can't go rummage through the workbench or kitchen junk drawer for the one thing we need.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:45 PM on March 9, 2013


Also, it's not like there's room to swing a battle axe in a modern plane anyway.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:46 PM on March 9, 2013


Boy the USPS is really missing out by not having postal kiosks at airport screening lines.

This is America. We don't have the government run services for the public good. We have private enterprise that will sell a service to you at vastly inflated prices based upon the urgency of your need of the service instead.
posted by Talez at 8:45 PM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


CheeseDigestsAll: "How many stabbings on planes did we have prior to 9/11?

Seconded. I've been forced to mail my Swiss Army Knife home from the airport several times. If 250 passengers can not subdue a guy with a 3.5" blade, something is very wrong.
"

Same here, although once, when I was younger, pre-TSA, I got stopped at a metal detector with a cheap Swiss knockoff in my pocket I forgot about (carry something like that with you everywhere long enough, you can easily ignore the feeling), and, when braced by security asked "What? I'm going to hold the corkscrew to the pilot's throat and say 'Take me to Cuba?'"

Unamused was he.
posted by Samizdata at 1:01 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frowner: "Actually, IIRC, we could bring small pocket knives to school when I was in high school.

We actually did have a stabbing (bullied kid turns on the bully, chases him down the hall, stabs him in the chest; bully had also bullied me pretty badly and consistently, so this gave me some complicated feelings) - turns out it's really hard to kill someone with a small pocket knife.

Of course, in my entire familiarity with that high school - about twenty years, based on living close to it, attending it and having a little brother who also went there - there weren't any other stabbings or much worse than a fist fight.

I'm not sure how we would have prevented kids from bringing small knives anyway, short of searching them regularly or putting them through metal detectors, and if you treat people like prisoners and teachers like cops, you'll turn school into a prison quick enough.

If you want to know a bizarre American mentality, it is "everyone is constantly yearning to kill each other, and only the banning of small pocket knives generally used for cutting up fruit and trimming cord can prevent this".
"

Yeah, and in elementary school, I semi-accidentally stabbed a kid in the forehead with a pencil. (Semi since I WAS chasing him with the pencil, but he ran a lot faster than me - not saying much there - and I was NOT expecting him to stop and turn around as I jumped over a chair).

So this means no pencils now, right?

(Oh, the Swiss army knife I fedexed more than once? Mainly carried it because of the socketed screwdriver set. Barely opened the large blade as the small one handled my cutting needs.)
posted by Samizdata at 1:35 AM on March 10, 2013


Who carries a knife all the time? Yeah, I'm an engineer, and for many years I always carried my Leatherman with me regularly (now I just use it for work). It's an awesome tool that comes in very handy all the time, and I regularly need it for work since we're frequently traveling to operate our equipment on boats -- plenty of uses for screwdrivers, pliers, scissors, and knives in that scenario.

Why can't I stand to be without it for the duration of a flight? The problem is, I had an engraved Leatherman gifted to me by a friend stolen out of my checked luggage on an international trip once, and since I primarily fly internationally for work, I now don't trust my tools to stay there. Have I ever had jewelry or electronics stolen out of my luggage? No. But the nice fancy Leatherman? Absolutely, and so have many of my colleagues with their nicer multitools and knives. If I know I need to use it when I get where I'm going, I'd love to have it with me, and not just cross my fingers hope it's still in my bag when I land.
posted by olinerd at 3:02 AM on March 10, 2013


Everyone knows the TSA sucks at actually enforcing their rules. But I don't see how that's an argument for having dumb rules to begin with.

I talked to a senior and clueful TSA supervisory agent at ORD. I asked him "I know you cannot discuss many procedures, but can I ask -- is the inconsistency intentional?"

The answer: often, yes. Not always, but rules are tweaked constantly by the TSA. The idea is to make a potential bad guy less comfortable by making sure he can't know the exact routine to clear security as fast as possible. It's similar to other agents asking questions not for the answers, but to see if you start acting weird.

For some reason, the TSA feels that it's OK for the 1% to be exempt from the pointless humiliation of removing their shoes at airport security

The fact that you think the 1% fly commercial shows how little you understand just how wealthy they are.

Most of the folks in F are frequent flyers on upgrades. The few who pay? They're not in the 1%. They may not even be in the 5%.

The 1% flies in chartered executive jets and goes through no security whatsoever.
posted by eriko at 6:20 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I talked to a senior and clueful TSA supervisory agent at ORD. I asked him "I know you cannot discuss many procedures, but can I ask -- is the inconsistency intentional?"

The answer: often, yes.


"I meant to do that." -- Pee Wee Herman
posted by radwolf76 at 7:39 AM on March 10, 2013


altopower: "I don't understand how they think it makes sense to allow KNIVES, but not, say, liquids over 3.4 ounces."

It's a very Tao sort of thing you see. Water wears down stone, the soft overcomes the hard.
posted by symbioid at 7:55 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyone remember all that alcohol sold behind security in duty free shops? A full bottle makes bludgeoning weapon that's more dangerous than these tiny knives. Alternatively, you can break two empty bottles together to produce a much larger edged weapon, although this requires some training with the bottles in question. So the TSA should either approve tiny knives or ban duty free.

I wish the clarified their rules about large empty bottles, supposedly nobody minds. I've heard about TSA agent taking away bottles. It's no biggie if you're only recycling a drink bottle, but camping stores charge ridiculously inflated prices for camelback water bladders.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:28 AM on March 10, 2013


I have carried a knife everyday for decades. I got my first Swiss army when I joined cub scouts. I have a preference for folding blades over multitools because I find multitools make mediocre knives and mediocre screwdrivers, and those are my primary use cases. So I have a screwdriver I really like that is always handy, in my bag or car, but my knife is always in my pocket.

For our anniversary, my wife bought my a very nice knife. It's custom made with carbon fibre grips, a hand forged, folded steel blade with beautifully intricate patterns, and sapphires in the opener nub and the lock release. It's sharp, light and beautiful, and I find I use it about once or twice a day. I love my wife very much and this was a great present; I carry it everyday.

Except when I fly.

The only halfway reasonable argument in this thread is for flight attendant safety against the knife wielding mentally unstable. The solution to that problem isn't one the TSA can bring about, short of making everyone fly naked and empty handed on planes with arm and leg restraints. It's a public health policy issue and one that is way beyond the scope of this argument. I would rather donate $25 to mental health programs every time I fly than use that money to pay someone to steal my stuff.

These rules are not arbitrary. They're designed to specifically allow one class of knives through and not another. Anyone who has owned a few knives should recognize this immediately. 2.36 inches only sounds weird because we don't use metric; it's 6cm which is a standard length. Swiss Army knives like the one I got in third grade, like the silver Tiffany one my father-in-law carries on a keychain that was a gift from my wife's sister on her wedding day, like the thousands the TSA arbitrarily confiscates everyday—those are okay. Anyone who is scared of that knife should simply go buy one and live with it for a few days and you will realize how much of a non–issue this decision is. The other class are the ones I carry. The spyderco knives, the gerbers, etc. They're bigger and generally consist of a single locking blade. They are more intimidating in appearance. You're not going to have to break out a ruler to measure. The difference is obvious at a glance. They're basically two totally different classes of item. The rules do a good job of breaking down the differences to specifications, but don't let that confuse you into thinking there is some huge grey area. Sure, some company will make one that falls right on the border for trolls, but that knife will be well nigh useless for anything but trolling.

Anyway, as a knife carrying, sane, non-stably person I vow to come to the aid of any flight attendant being set upon by a Swiss Army knife wielding psychopath at anytime—in an airplane or even just on the street—in exchange for increased sanity and liberty in flight. I call upon my tool and jewelery carrying brethren to stand up and make the same pledge.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:13 AM on March 10, 2013


Who the heck needs a knife of any sort on a plane anyway? I live and work on a small holding with animals, chores, tasks and all sorts of reasons to wield a sharp blade but my handy ol' Spyderco still hangs on a hook by the door with a serious torch and a set of waterproofs until I need it. If I can get by day to day here without carrying a blade in this situ, I can't think of a valid reason to have one on my person flying. Unless I'm a dork espousing "everyday carry" nonsense.
posted by Callicvol at 10:33 AM on March 10, 2013


Did you just miss all the people saying it's not so much on the plane as at the destination, and theft from checked bags? Bags that get lost? Trips you take where you don't need to check something?
posted by rtha at 10:42 AM on March 10, 2013


Who the heck needs a knife of any sort on a plane anyway?

And why does anybody need clothes in the car? It's warm, your seat is soft covered in soft fabric or leather, and it's not like anyone else should be peeking in. Everybody should always drive naked.

...oh, what's that? You were driving to somewhere? Ah. My mistake.
posted by cribcage at 10:45 AM on March 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can rephrase if you'd like. What function does a knife serve aboard an aircraft? Or indeed of any immediate need within an hour of arriving at your destination? None. Zero. Zilch. The check it and lose it argument is nonsense as is that clothes in a car stuff. Knives are barely needed in everyday life and I live in a rural, self sufficient setting so middle class, city stuff pales by comparison. Check your knife, check your ego.
posted by Callicvol at 11:07 AM on March 10, 2013


My keys serve absolutely no function on an aircraft. None. Zip. And yet, I never check bags. So, I'm not going to check my bag just so I can relieve myself of my keys. Moreover, I wouldn't put my keys in a checked bag, because checked bags get lost all the time. I don't want the inconvenience of losing my keys.

Oh, did I say 'keys'? I meant my trusty swiss army knife.
posted by found missing at 11:11 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


True, "What function does a knife serve aboard an aircraft?" is indeed a rephrasing of, "Who the heck needs a knife of any sort on a plane anyway?" But the problem wasn't the phrasing. The problem was that—no offense—it's a stupid question.

Airplanes are for travel. Just as a fun, educational thought experiment in your head, imagine yourself as Chief Security Person for your local airport. Today you are tasked with unpacking and cataloging everybody's carry-on luggage. Imagine what you'll find. Go ahead and write down a list. Now, go down that list and put a checkmark beside every item that you think travelers will "need" either on board the airplane or "immediately within arriving at their destination."

Notice how few items you have put checkmarks beside? Right. That's why it was a stupid question.
posted by cribcage at 11:14 AM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's not a stupid question. Maybe we're just different. I don't carry anything non functional to my journey on flights, including keys usually. he loss of luggage can be a risk but what loss a Swiss Army Knife? If your knives, somehow. are irreplaceable then don't fly with them. I would never in a million years consider a knife a "must-have" item on a plane. Your thought experiment doesn't really make much sense to me either, unless our implying that the average passenger carries mostly inessential items when they travel.
posted by Callicvol at 11:29 AM on March 10, 2013


Yes, I think it's accurate to say that the average airplane passenger—yourself included, I'd bet five dollars—carries mostly items that are not "essential" either (1) while on board the plane itself, or (2) immediately or within sixty minutes of landing. Those were your criteria.

For instance, people might carry several changes of clothes. But that's not "essential" on the plane or within an hour of landing. Or people might carry a toothbrush to use that night, or a portfolio and pen to use at the next day's seminar. We could go on and on, and on. If we brainstormed for ten minutes we'd make a very long list, and very few of those items would receive checkmarks for being "essential" on the plane or within an hour of landing.
posted by cribcage at 11:40 AM on March 10, 2013


Your assumption is that the passenger is flying light with only cabin luggage. My argument is that if you need to travel with a knife (and I can think of few reasons to) then check it with the rest of your luggage. Regardless, you'd lose that five dollars (although I'd rather wager in GBP). Carrying a knife under the premise of "can't live without it" is basically an affectation. Again speaking as someone who uses one daily and still doesn't feel the need to have one on my person at all times.
posted by Callicvol at 11:49 AM on March 10, 2013


unless our implying that the average passenger carries mostly inessential items when they travel.

Inessential for when they're on the airplane, yeah. Are you going to need your checkbook? The tampons you're going to use when your period starts in two days? Spare earbuds? The six pens that have fallen to the bottom of the bag, four of which don't even work any more? The medication you only take at night before bed? Your AAA card? Spare chargers or cords?

I would never in a million years consider a knife a "must-have" item on a plane.

Every single time I've taken a weekend trip to Portland or Seattle, when I bring only a backpack (which I do not check because hello, it has all my stuff in it and it is by design a carry-on), I've had an experience where a knife would come in great handy during the weekend. Is it okay with you if different people are different from you, with different needs?
posted by rtha at 11:52 AM on March 10, 2013


Again, carrying knives is an affectation. A bit like carrying a screwdriver or a corkscrew or some tool that gouges stones out of horseshoes. If rules state they can't be carried on planes then no biggie as far as I'm concerned. If and when I need a knife I'll be sure to lay my hands on one easily enough. Heck, I hadn't realised the U.S. division of the Swiss Army was so vitriolic, hopefully we'll never have to go to war.
posted by Callicvol at 12:02 PM on March 10, 2013


Again, carrying knives is an affectation.

No, it's really not. Why do you keep insisting that your view is the only possible correct one?

A bit like carrying a screwdriver or a corkscrew or some tool that gouges stones out of horseshoes.

It's called a hoofpick.
posted by rtha at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Your assumption is that the passenger is flying light with only cabin luggage. My argument is that if you need to travel with a knife (and I can think of few reasons to) then check it with the rest of your luggage.

First, mine isn't an assumption. People do travel light with only carry-on luggage. Have you read this thread? Many people have shared their experiences. It's also what I have witnessed in many, many airports. It's also how I often travel.

Second and ironically, you are making an assumption: that passengers are checking luggage ("then check it with the rest of your luggage"). This assumption indicates that if you have any significant experience traveling by air, then that experience has been radically different from my own, because I have seen lots of people travel without checking luggage. And again, many people in this thread have said, "I don't check bags."

Again, carrying knives is an affectation.

This is a perfectly fine opinion to hold, but it's no different from any other judgmental prejudice about other people's behavior. So it's not any kind of a legitimate basis for legislation.
posted by cribcage at 12:09 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stating an opinion is not the same as insisting one's point of view is the only one. A hoof pick huh? Well there you go...
posted by Callicvol at 12:09 PM on March 10, 2013


Wanna hear something wacky and weird...? I still have my junior high school student handbook (circa mid-1970s, no need to put too fine a point on my actual age) that states any pocket knives with blades longer than four inches were not allowed on campus. Hard to believe that there was a time when any sort of weaponry was acceptable under school rules.

The categorization of pocket knives as 'weaponry' seems kind of silly to me. Also, I graduated from high school in 1997, and I and most of my friends carried Leathermen at school every day. Not covertly, either - they were frequently worn on belts, and we used them openly around the school. They were useful, and it was never an issue.

Granted, I was in Pacific northwestern suburbia, and I know that at the same time there are other parts of the country (and probably my state) where that would never have gone over. And that's what makes the school comparisons irrelevant, really... policies on what is and is not allowed on school grounds are set by school boards at a local basis, rather than by a federal agency. The school board is also allowed to say no hats are allowed, or regulate the length of shorts worn, and it would be completely inappropriate for the TSA to do the same thing. The goals of the two organizations are different, and the TSA has a far narrower domain of responsibility.

I'm pleased about the change, personally. My husband uses a money clip inherited from his grandfather that happens to have a tiny (maybe 1.5", probably shorter) blade that flips out from one side. He doesn't usually use it as a knife, so he doesn't necessarily think about it when traveling and we've had to mail it home from the airport a number of times. And I'll take any move towards the side of sanity when it comes to airport security.
posted by polymath at 12:27 PM on March 10, 2013


Swiss Army knives are damn convenient things to carry around. I don't do it, but I appreciate the people that do when the need arises.
posted by empath at 12:37 PM on March 10, 2013


[Moving on works best when everyone does it together, folks. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 1:02 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Callicvol: "I can rephrase if you'd like. What function does a knife serve aboard an aircraft? Or indeed of any immediate need within an hour of arriving at your destination? None. Zero. Zilch. The check it and lose it argument is nonsense as is that clothes in a car stuff. Knives are barely needed in everyday life and I live in a rural, self sufficient setting so middle class, city stuff pales by comparison. Check your knife, check your ego."

You say that, yet in this very thread, multiple people have commented on how they find it useful to have their multitool with them, even on the airplane. Do you think they're lying, or do you just not give a shit?

Personally, I think the hundreds of miniature bombs we allow on every flight is a bigger real-world threat. Ban anything with a lithium ion battery from airplanes, I say! After all, aircraft have been brought down by burning lithium before. Is the carrying of portable electronic devices a mere affectation, or do some people actually find them useful in flight? Hmm...
posted by wierdo at 1:43 PM on March 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Callicvol: " What function does a knife serve aboard an aircraft? Or indeed of any immediate need within an hour of arriving at your destination? None. Zero. Zilch."

I need a knife as soon as I want to open my bags because I zip tie the lock loops on my baggage. They act as a security seal making it obvious if the bag has been opened as baggage handlers and TSA inspectors don't have ty-raps at hand.

I have started carrying a pretty decent travel knife. It's a folding utility knife. The blade is just a standard trapezoidal utility knife blade so it can painlessly discarded at anytime and spares can be kept in your checked baggage or picked up in pretty well any hardware or auto supply store and many corner stores. And even if I'm forced to give it up they are fairly cheap.
posted by Mitheral at 3:46 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Again, carrying knives is an affectation. A bit like carrying a screwdriver or a corkscrew or some tool that gouges stones out of horseshoes.

I carry a knife primarily because I have weak hands - if I want to open a box or even an envelope or a package of food, I need it. I use it as a pry bar on bottles and cans, or to open up electronics if I'm changing batteries. Likewise, I carry a screwdriver daily because I need to be able to do minor wheelchair repairs without having to go hunt one down. (Incidentally, having both of those in my carry-on, or 'concealed' on my wheelchair - I'm willing to risk having a cheap knife confiscated - has saved my ass more than once when I land and find that the baggage handlers have fucked up my wheelchair yet again.)

The obvious response is "fine, you're disabled, that's a special case". So what? All of us are special cases with unique needs and activities.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 5:17 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've flown for years (albeit locally, in Australia) with a tiny pocket-knife attached to my key chain. The metal detectors don't even pick it up.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:25 PM on March 10, 2013


Knives are barely needed in everyday life and I live in a rural, self sufficient setting so middle class, city stuff pales by comparison.
posted by Callicvol


You tough, primitive rural types just tear stuff apart with your bare hands then, right?
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:44 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


jeffburdges: "Anyone remember all that alcohol sold behind security in duty free shops? A full bottle makes bludgeoning weapon that's more dangerous than these tiny knives. Alternatively, you can break two empty bottles together to produce a much larger edged weapon, although this requires some training with the bottles in question. So the TSA should either approve tiny knives or ban duty free.

I wish the clarified their rules about large empty bottles, supposedly nobody minds. I've heard about TSA agent taking away bottles. It's no biggie if you're only recycling a drink bottle, but camping stores charge ridiculously inflated prices for camelback water bladders.
"

Yeah, a bit Hollywood there. I used to do door at an underground club. I can't tell you the number of times some "badass" busted off a bottle and ended up with a handful of blood and pain.
posted by Samizdata at 5:50 PM on March 10, 2013


Callicvol: "It's not a stupid question. Maybe we're just different. I don't carry anything non functional to my journey on flights, including keys usually. he loss of luggage can be a risk but what loss a Swiss Army Knife? If your knives, somehow. are irreplaceable then don't fly with them. I would never in a million years consider a knife a "must-have" item on a plane. Your thought experiment doesn't really make much sense to me either, unless our implying that the average passenger carries mostly inessential items when they travel."

Gosh, so glad everyone here has perfect vision/Lasik/contact lenses. For some of us that is not an option and glasses related issues occur whether or not you are on a plane.

Just because something doesn't seem essential to YOU doesn't mean it is not essential to someone else.

Besides, I remember having my Swiss on a trip when I discovered a store out of state that had a replacement part I needed that I could not find in town or as inexpensively online. So, if I hadn't had my Swiss with me, I wouldn't have stopped and noticed it.
posted by Samizdata at 6:04 PM on March 10, 2013


The TSA did put out a statement explicitly stating that their goal was to prevent "catastrophic" events, as I was saying before. They don't think these knives are going to bring the plane down, so they're not the TSA's problem.

___
I can rephrase if you'd like. What function does a knife serve aboard an aircraft? Or indeed of any immediate need within an hour of arriving at your destination? None. Zero. Zilch. The check it and lose it argument is nonsense as is that clothes in a car stuff. Knives are barely needed in everyday life and I live in a rural, self sufficient setting so middle class, city stuff pales by comparison. Check your knife, check your ego.
Or you could just take it with you on the plane. Because, you know, the rules allow it now.

You did you forget you were arguing against something that's already been done? Yes, people could check their knives. But why would they?

The other problem with the "just check it" is that it's an extra hassle, you get off the plane and now you've got to wait for your bag, which could very well have gotten lost. And on top of that now airlines charge checked bag fees, which can increase how much it costs to fly.

As a practical thing, no one needs a multi-tool on an airplane, the problem is that people have been forgetting about them and having them confiscated. So it's not so much that people need knives on planes, it's that we are inconveniencing tens of thousands of people a year for no reason.

___
If your knives, somehow. are irreplaceable then don't fly with them.
Or you could fly with them, because, again, they are allowed. The argument is about whether or not the TSA made a mistake in allowing them.
My argument is that if you need to travel with a knife (and I can think of few reasons to) then check it with the rest of your luggage.
Why?
If rules state they can't be carried on planes then no biggie as far as I'm concerned.
No, the rules say you can carry them on planes.
posted by delmoi at 11:44 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or you could fly with them, because, again, they are allowed. The argument is about whether or not the TSA made a mistake in allowing them.

Not here in the UK Delmoi. But seeing as you appear to be defining constraints of the discussion to the US then I'll just bow out.
posted by Callicvol at 7:16 AM on March 11, 2013


This is America. We don't have the government run services for the public good. We have private enterprise that will sell a service to you at vastly inflated prices based upon the urgency of your need of the service instead.

And further north, there's Canada, where you pay more for everything for no raisin! (And where the restriction on blades has not been relaxed.)

In the security line at Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport, they also have mailers that let you mail forbidden items to Canada or the United States. These prices aren't exact, but it would cost $9 to mail something to Los Angeles, and $9.50 to mail it to Terminal 3.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2013


Not here in the UK Delmoi. But seeing as you appear to be defining constraints of the discussion to the US then I'll just bow out.

?? Since the link is about a U.S.-specific rule, it doesn't seem like a weird constraint.
posted by rtha at 9:30 AM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why should the discussion be constrained to US only (and on one persons say-so) when it's a ruling that has implications internationally? Please stop derailing.
posted by Callicvol at 10:59 AM on March 11, 2013


one more dead town's last parade: "In the security line at Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport, they also have mailers that let you mail forbidden items to Canada or the United States. These prices aren't exact, but it would cost $9 to mail something to Los Angeles, and $9.50 to mail it to Terminal 3."

That would be so convenient. Every time it's happened to me, I was told "Somewhere in this airport is a FedEx kiosk. No, we don't know where exactly. If you can locate this kiosk, and it is both open and not out of shipping boxes, you may pay a premium to ship your multitool home. Once you've managed that, you are welcome to go to the end of the line that just took you an hour to get through and start the screening process again, from scratch. Good luck making your flight!"

I've always declined the scavenger hunt, so I don't know what the price would be, though the $9 range you quote sounds about right to me.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:00 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why should the discussion be constrained to US only (and on one persons say-so) when it's a ruling that has implications internationally? Please stop derailing.

The title of the thread is "TSA troubles". I had no idea the TSA was an international agency.

The ruling does not have international implications. The TSA has no jurisdiction over foreign agencies.

Knives are barely needed in everyday life and I live in a rural, self sufficient setting so middle class, city stuff pales by comparison.

I find myself needing a pocket knife all the time. I live in the city. I open a lot of boxes, cut a lot of plastic ties, open a lot of things packaged in hard-shell plastic. My pocket knife is not a weapon. If I wanted to hurt someone with it, my best bet would be to slip it in their food and hope they choke on it. It is just a tool. It happens to be a very useful tool to me. I travel a lot. I do not check bags, at all. I fly all over, for weeks or months at a time, with a single carry-on. I carried a pocket knife regularly before 9/11. I don't carry one now (obviously) but I can't remember the last time I was away and didn't reach in my pocket at least once looking for it to open a package or do some other mundane thing.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:20 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


solotoro: "Have you ever actually looked at the application? You have to give the same information that you do when applying for a federal security clearance. You even have to have an interview. The $100 is probably more to discourage casual applicants; I doubt it's even sufficient to cover the costs for processing the application, and I certainly don't think that it is accurate to say the dollar amount is what is setting the bar for getting the Global Entry card."

Hi, Global Entry card holder here, posting from Tokyo, based in San Francisco!

I had to fill out an application that was about as detailed as the one you have to fill out for a passport. I had to provide notarized proof of identity. That application had to be approved before I was scheduled for an in-person interview at the airport with a well-armed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Customs and Border Protection officer, who asked probing questions and followed up on what I said, and in general was not at all casual about it.

The process took almost two months, and, as has been mentioned, cost $100 as well as a considerable amount of time and paperwork. Are you perhaps confusing it with CLEAR?

In summary, it was kind of a pain in the ass, and I'm fine with that. And, yes, it's nice to get through customs quickly when I come back, because once you do it more than a couple of times in a few months, it adds up.

It is not, emphatically, a quick or easy process.
posted by scrump at 12:09 AM on March 13, 2013


BrotherCaine: "It's been pointed out here before that the Israelis have much better security with less hassle to travelers."

To be fair, the passenger numbers on El Al are what make that possible. Limited number of flights, limited number of passengers: they can apply high security and still remain profitable. An airline like Southwest would probably bankrupt itself trying to scale the same thing to their pace of operations.

And, well, they're businesses, and this is American capitalism, so PROFIT ABOVE ALL, BITCHES.
posted by scrump at 12:16 AM on March 13, 2013


scrump: "Are you perhaps confusing it with CLEAR?"

This came off as a dig against solotoro. In defense of the me, problem is are because mine the quality of communicating today not so good, the in havening.

Profound apologistics.
posted by scrump at 12:20 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be fair, the passenger numbers on El Al are what make that possible. Limited number of flights, limited number of passengers: they can apply high security and still remain profitable. An airline like Southwest would probably bankrupt itself trying to scale the same thing to their pace of operations.

I've seen this argument before, but I don't understand why the expenses would scale at a faster rate than the income? And since all airlines have to pay the same wouldn't the ticket prices just scale up or down accordingly?

I actually think US screening methods are likely to be both more expensive and less effective.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:40 AM on March 13, 2013


If you want some insight on how your knife got through one time and was caught on the way back, check out Taking Sense Away, a blog by a former TSA agent.
posted by "friend" of a TSA Agent at 9:56 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hi, Global Entry card holder here... I had to fill out an application...

Thanks for sharing your experience. That was interesting to read.
posted by cribcage at 6:08 PM on March 13, 2013


Not here in the UK Delmoi. But seeing as you appear to be defining constraints of the discussion to the US then I'll just bow out.
Because the thread is about rule changes in the US?

We have a rule. The rule says you can bring knives on planes. The question is whether or not the rule is a mistake. Saying that you don't need a knife on a plane is irrelevant, because there are a large class of items you don't need on a plane - like laptops, cell phones, tooth brushes - that are not banned.

I wouldn't be a personal imposition if knives were banned for me, I don't even own a pocket knife.

But the question isn't whether or not we need knives the question is whether or not we need to ban them - whether or not the risk they pose is so great that the government is making a mistake in banning them.

If we neither need knives, nor need to ban them, then we need not have any opinion about this rule at all. Except to say that in general it's good that the TSA is lightening up instead of just imposing more and more restrictions without ever analyzing to see if some rules are still needed.
I've seen this argument before, but I don't understand why the expenses would scale at a faster rate than the income? And since all airlines have to pay the same wouldn't the ticket prices just scale up or down accordingly?

I actually think US screening methods are likely to be both more expensive and less effective.
The security process at El-Al is based on the race and nationality of the passenger. If you're not a Jewish Israeli citizen it can take hours, and is extremely unpleasant.
I don’t want to generalize too much from a single trip through Ben Gurion Airport, but I’d have to say that my experience leaving Tel Aviv was far and away the most unpleasant encounter I’d ever had with airport security officials in the decade. Moscow in 1998 was worse. As best I could tell, things went pretty smoothly as long as you were (a) Israeli, (b) traveling with an Israeli, or (c) traveling with some kind of well-established tour group. I think this may be how the majority of people go through the airport, which may account for its good reputation. But it took me approximately three hours to get from the initial passport check through to the food court. I was told that I couldn’t take my iPad onto the plane, and therefore would have to check a whole bag that I’d been planning to carry on so that the bag ...

I was groped a couple of times, yelled at by surly Russian immigrants, accused of “lying” because I’d forgotten I had a second iPod charging cord in my bag, interrogated several times about who I’d talked to, etc.
also:
“The African-American woman in our group was taken off to be questioned. A bunch of us were told we couldn’t bring iPads on the plane,” he said. The Jewish member of his group “had the easiest time,” he said. “The black woman had the hardest time.”
posted by delmoi at 4:51 PM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


In other TSA news: TSA routinely violates own rules and the law to discriminate against people w/disabilities
posted by homunculus at 8:12 PM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


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