WASHINGTON – The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is abandoning a plan to allow passengers to carry small knives, souvenir bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes in the face of fierce congressional and industry opposition, the head of the agency said Wednesday.
By scuttling the plan to drop the knives and sports equipment from TSA’s list of prohibited items, the agency can focus its attention on other priorities, including expanding its Pre-Check program to identify ahead of time travelers who don’t pose a security risk, TSA Administrator John Pistole said.
Pistole had unveiled the proposal to loosen the rules for carry-ons in March, saying the knives and other items can’t enable terrorists to cause a plane to crash. He said intercepting them takes time that would be better used searching for explosives and other more serious threats. TSA screeners confiscate over 2,000 of the small folding knives a day from passengers.
Skeptical lawmakers, airlines, labor unions and some law enforcement groups complained that the knives and other items in the hands of the wrong passengers could be used to injure or even kill passengers and crew.
Last month 145 House members signed a letter to Pistole asking him to keep in place the current policy prohibiting passengers from including the knives and other items in their carry-on bags. Flight attendant unions organized protests in Washington and at airports across the country. And Airlines for America, which represents major U.S. airlines, as well as top executives from some of the nation’s largest airlines, came out against the plan.
“After getting the input from all these different constituents, I realized there was not across-the-board support that would serve us well in moving forward,” Pistole said.