Facing significant public outcry, the TSA has chosen to "temporarily delay" implementation of the new rules regarding the Prohibited Items List set to take effect this Thursday, April 25th. The proposed changes were announced a month ago and would permit, among other things, small knives to be carried on board by passengers. In a statement, the TSA indicated that the move was to allow for "further input from the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC), which includes representatives from the aviation community, passenger advocates, law enforcement experts, and other stakeholders."
TSA Administrator John Pistole, in an email sent on Monday, provided a bit of a mixed message regarding the change in plans. In the email he notes that explosives are still the main focus of the TSA, "Last week's events in Boston underscore our continued focus on explosive devices. Transportation-security officer training will continue to emphasize these and other evolving threats." At the same time, however, this now delayed shift does not seem to change anything related to explosive detection by TSA agents at the checkpoints. The move was initially announced as a means to bring the TSA policies in line with those enforced in the rest of the world and to reduce the energy the TSA agents spend looking for the items considered to be less significant threats.
Flight Attendant unions are happy with the change, most hoping that the delay will move from temporary to a full policy change. The Association for Professional Flight Attendants issued a statement to that effect, "The United States has banned all knives from commercial flights since the September 11, 2001, attacks for good reason: Knives were the terrorists' weapons of choice in bringing down four jetliners and murdering thousands of Americans. All knives should be banned from planes permanently." Various elected officials are calling the move anything from a "solid, commonsense step" to an approach which can provide "a sensible security policy with stakeholder buy-in."
It seems from these statements that flight attendants, elected officials, and the TSA have different views as to what the real threats are to commercial aviation and how to address them. It will be interesting to see how the policy develops and is ultimately implemented.
Photo credit: TSA agent via Shutterstock