Almost from its inception, the TSA has faced a storm of criticism over everything from pat-downs to naked picture machines as well as security rules that were seen as harsh at best and pointless at worst. Now the agency is facing a new round of fierce complaints in the wake of the decision to lift its ban on small pocket knives – but is this criticism justified?
Who Opposes Small Knives
Some of the airlines think so. Several U.S. carriers that have gone on record opposing the lifting of the ban. It should be noted that this change to the prohibited items list only applies to knives with blades that cannot be locked and are only 2.36 inches or shorter. That doesn’t seem to make the executives at American, Delta and US Airways feel any better although their biggest beef with the rule change appears to be that none of them were consulted about it. US Airways CEO Doug Parker adds that it “might place our flight attendants’ safety at risk.”
Flight Attendants as Victims
Flight attendants agree, calling the knives-on-board decision “outrageous” while the Coalition of Airline Pilots (which represents more than 22,000 pilots from several U.S. carriers) says “the removal of any layer of security will put crew members and the flying public unnecessarily in harm’s way.” In harm’s way from – what?
Many of the complaints seem to suggest harm might come from passengers and not necessarily terrorists, either. In fairness, flight attendants have had plenty of struggles with so-called unruly passengers, but – who needs a blade? Flight attendants have been kicked, head-butted and even bitten on the job. Plus, if the intent is there, anything can be a weapon: cell phones can be thrown, pencils can be jabbed, and even blankets can be used to confuse or bind the unwary. But for those who worry about the potential for a repeat of 9/11, the good guys among the passengers far outweigh the bad, and there are plenty of heroes among them.
Best Defense: Passengers
Yes, cockpit doors have been fortified and lock since 9/11 and that’s a big deal. A bigger deal is the new breed of passenger. Consider that it was passengers who took down the Underwear Bomber – and if you don’t recall that potentially disastrous incident, it’s because the terrorist’s plans were thwarted by ordinary travelers. There are countless other incidents big and small in which ordinary passengers rushed to the aid of cabin crew members and seatmates alike. As others have pointed out, it all goes back 9/11 because it changed the way we think.
Before then, the biggest air travel threat came from hijackers but passengers knew if they sat quietly they usually would not be harmed. That way of thinking ended forever on 9/11 when a group of passengers on a flight over Pennsylvania decided terrorists would not be allowed to hurl one last plane-missile at Washington, D.C.
It seems unlikely this new breed of passenger would be intimidated by a pen knife.