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WASHINGTON: A decision to scrap a post-9/11 ban on pocket knives being carried by passengers on US aircraft has triggered an angry backlash from pilots, flight attendants and airline chiefs.
Starting from April 25, travellers will be able to carry small knives with folding blades on US planes following a shift in security strategy by the federal Transportation Security Administration.
TSA chief John Pistole said the new guidelines would bring US security regulations into line with international standards and were designed to help airport staff find more dangerous items such as explosives.
While box cutters of the kind used by hijackers in the September 11, 2001 attacks remain banned, the TSA’s decision to relax the rules on pocket knives has appalled airline officials and staff.
“These items have been banned for more than 11 years and will add little value to the customer security process flow in relation to the additional risk for our cabin staff and customers,” Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Richard Anderson wrote in a letter to the TSA.
The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which represents some 90,000 workers, said its members were “outraged”. The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations has also spoken out against the move. “We believe the threat is still real and the removal of any layer of security will put crew members and the flying public unnecessarily in harm’s way,” CAPA president Mike Karn warned.
But terrorism expert JM Berger was sharply critical of the rule change. “TSA continues to make people take off their shoes before entering the gate at an airport even though there has never been a single fatality from a shoe bomb on an airplane,” Berger said.
“In contrast, terrorists armed only with small blades killed almost 3,000 people in a single day in 2001.” Satirical media outlet The Onion commented in a spoof report that the TSA “will henceforth allow small terrorists on commercial aircraft”. AFP