Air Travel Today

The TSA’s decision to allow airline passengers to carry on small knives, among other things, is causing uproar in the airline industry. The new policy will also allow novelty size baseball bats, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, and up to two golf clubs. Box cutters and razor blades are still prohibited, as are locking or fixed blades. Allowable knives must be able to fold up and be 2.36 inches or less in length, and less than one half inch wide.

The new rules, which will take effect April 23rd, are being opposed by the Flight Attendants Union Coalition, the Coalition of Airline Pilots, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (which includes air marshals). Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in a letter to the TSA Administrator that this “will add little value to the customer security process flow in relation to the additional risk for our cabin staff and customers.” The concern is primarily for unruly customers who might get out of hand during a flight, and less so for planned acts of terrorism.

The T.S.A. indicated that the presence of air marshals, gun-carrying pilots, and airline crew members trained in self-defense provide enough protection. However, not every flight has an air marshal or armed pilot. The T.S.A. has determined that these newly allowed items represent no real danger, and are at most a distraction from more serious threats.

This has sparked a debate about the role of the T.S.A., whether it is their function to prevent large scale acts of terrorism involving airplanes, or a broader definition that includes the general safety of airline passengers. Since 9/11, the TSA has received $60 billion in funding, with $8 billion in 2010 alone. Recently, amidst the sequester budget cuts, the T.S.A. ordered $50 million worth of new uniforms. Whether the new rules will cut costs or speed up security is yet to be seen.

Additional Resources

Daily Mail, Four in 10 British Pilots Admit to Falling Asleep in Plane’s Cockpit:

Voice of America, U.S. Budget Impasse Could Affect Air Travel:

Politico, Sequester Hasn’t Strangled Air Travel Yet:

NBC/Reuters, Global Air Travel Demand Expected to Pick up Pace in 2013:

Fox, Delta Air Lines CEO Opposes TSA Policy Allowing Knives on Planes:

The New York Times, U.S. Relaxes Air Travel Carry-On Prohibitions:

ABC News, Dreamliner Fleet to Resume Flying ‘Within Weeks,’ Boeing Says:

HS Today, Airport Screeners’ Failure to Find IED during Covert Test No Surprise, Officials Say:

USA Today, American, U.S. Airways Prep for Merger Bumps:, How Safe Is Commercial Flight?

Co Design, The T.S.A.’s Insane Budget and Woeful Track Record:


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