Unions representing flight attendants at American Airlines and Southwest Airlines reacted angrily Tuesday to a policy change that will allow passengers to bring small knives, golf clubs and similar items onto flights.
The Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday that starting April 25, it would permit small knives, golf clubs, ski poles, small baseball bats and other items that have been banned since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings that caused four aircraft to crash.
The revised policy “is a threat to passengers and affront to flight attendants. This policy was designed to make the lives of TSA staff easier, but not make flights safer,” said Stacy K. Martin, president of the Transport Workers Union’s Local 556 that represents Southwest flight attendants.
“While we agree that a passenger wielding a small knife or swinging a golf club or hockey stick poses less of a threat to the pilot locked in the cockpit, these are real threats to passengers and flight attendants in the passenger cabin,” she said.
Similarly, the new policy upset the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American’s flight attendants.
“The APFA and our colleagues at other flight attendant unions have enjoyed a close working relationship with TSA since its inception. That’s why I’m a little puzzled that such a momentous decision would be made without consulting us,” APFA president Laura Glading said.
“In addition to being industry stakeholders, first responders and Sept. 11th victims, flight attendants are a resource. Nobody knows what it takes to keep passengers safe better than we do,” she said.
TSA administrator John Pistole announced the policy change at a Brooklyn aviation security conference. The TSA said the change was part of “TSA’s layered approach to security” and is needed “to align more closely with International Civil Aviation Organization standards.”
As of April 25, “TSA will allow knives that do not lock and have blades that are 2.36 inches or 6 centimeters or less in length and are less than one-half-inch in width, novelty-sized and toy bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs as part of their carry-on baggage,” the agency said.
The policy change “is part of an overall risk-based security approach, which allows transportation security officers to better focus their efforts on finding higher-threat items such as explosives,” the TSA said.
APFA safety and security coordinator Kelly Skyles also raised the question of where passengers will put the larger items like golf clubs.
“There’s less space than ever in overhead bins, and on some particular aircraft safely storing these large items will be impossible,” Skyles said in the union’s statement.
“Add to that the cramped confines of an airplane cabin, and you have the potential for passengers getting hit with these items during boarding and deplaning. It’s a recipe for disaster.”
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