TERRE HAUTE, Ind (AP / WTHI) - - Passengers in LA reacted with shrugs, but largely agreed with a new policy announced by the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, that airline passengers will be able to carry small knives and previously forbidden sports equipment on airplanes.
"It's common sense," said Pat O'Brien, who stood at Los Angeles International Airport after arriving from Durango, Colorado. "You can make anything into a knife so I don't have a problem with it at all. You can sharpen a credit card to make a sharp implement."
But local flyers, here in Terre Haute, have mixed opinions.
"I carry a knife, yes," admitted Marlon Nasser, a frequent flyer to his condo in Florida, and the owner of PaceSetter Sports in Terre Haute.
Nasser welcomes TSA's new policy, that goes into effect April 25. That policy permits folding knives with blades that are 2.36 inches or less in length and are less than 1/2-inch wide. The policy is aimed at allowing passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other knives.
Nasser admits he himself inadvertently smuggled through a security checkpoint his own pocketknife, placed in his pocket, when he was traveling roughly four years ago.
"I got through, and when I landed, I realized that I had it, had it with me," Nasser recalled. "It was just a very small – it would be legal in today's times."
But one of Nasser's employees disagrees with the boss.
"The blades, the knives, that shouldn't be allowed, I don't think," said Joey O'Rourke, a sales rep at PaceSetter who's looking forward to an upcoming flight to Las Vegas.
But O'Rourke does embrace the additional relaxed regulation – or the bigger part of it -- on sporting goods, which his store sells. That list includes novelty-sized baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs, the agency said.
"Golf clubs, definitely no," Joey O'Rourke shared. "Because that can definitely do some major damage to an individual, where the novelty bat, the waffle ball bat, I think that those are alright."
The new policy conforms U.S. security standards to international standards, and allows TSA to concentrate its energies on more serious safety threats, the agency said in a statement.
The announcement, made by TSA Administrator John Pistole at an airline industry gathering in New York, drew an immediate outcry from unions representing flight attendants and other airline workers, who said the items are still dangerous in the hands of the wrong passengers.
Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents over 10,000 flight attendants at Southwest Airlines, called the new policy "dangerous" and "shortsighted," saying it was designed to make "the lives of TSA staff easier, but not make flights safer."
"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," the union said in a statement.
Security standards adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, already call for passengers to be able to carry those items. Those standards are non-binding, but many countries follow them.
There has been a gradual easing of some of the security measures applied to airline passengers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In 2005, TSA changed its policies to allow passengers to carry on airplanes small scissors, knitting needles, tweezers, nail clippers and up to four books of matches. The move came as the agency turned its focus toward keeping explosives off planes, because intelligence officials believed that was the greatest threat to commercial aviation.
And in September 2011, TSA no longer required children, 12 years old and under, to remove their shoes at airport checkpoints. The agency recently issued new guidelines for travelers 75 years old and older so they can avoid removing shoes and light jackets when they go through airport security checkpoints.
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