Published on Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Planes to remain knife-free. For now.

Facing a huge backlash from the public and the Flight Attendants Union, the US Transportation Security yesterday postponed its controversial plan to allow knives on US flights beginning on Thursday.

The change would have allowed pocketknives with blades under 2.36 inches long and less than half an inch wide.

Knives have been banned since terrorists commandeered airplanes in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

A group of 133 Congressmen had signed a letter urging TSA to withdraw the plan, and the Flight Attendants Union has been a vocal opponent.

The Flight Attendants noted in a statement that in order to change a rule, TSA is legally required to issue a notice of rule-making, to allow all interested parties the opportunity to submit comments, and to fairly consider that input.

"If those procedures are followed, we have no doubt that the Administrator will conclude that knives have no place on our planes and will leave the rule barring 'weapons' in place," the union said.

A number of airline unions are working with Congressmen Ed Markey (D-MA) and Michael Grimm (R-NY), and Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), to propose legislation to permanently keep knives off planes.

In announcing the postponement, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, agreed the TSA should get input from stakeholders and transportation security experts.

A TSA spokesman in March had defended the idea of allowing knives, saying the TSA's primary mission is to stop terrorists from bringing down airplanes, which a pocketknife is not likely to do. The safety of travelers on planes is just a "tangential or residual benefit of the things we do," he said.

Thompson noted that the TSA, "paid for by the American public, must understand that its mission is to protect people—passengers and crew."

By Cheryl Rosen

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