The Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) new policy of allowing small knives onboard aircraft has created a firestorm of controversy with travelers, pilots, flight attendants and unions taking aim at the new TSA policy. The proposed TSA changes could take effect April 25 and have resulted in waves of criticism of the TSA, its policies and effectiveness.
The Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA) also weighed in, noting that the TSA decision - passengers will soon be allowed to carry on small knives and some sporting equipment - came after years of "research and untold hours of committee deliberations."
"These new rules are simply embarrassing and raise questions about whether those on this review committee are dealing with reality. At most, they are baby steps in the right direction. To some, they are a breach of personal security. This action without any explanation of its philosophy, rationale or significant benefits is generating more protests than plaudits, " CTA said.
CTA, a non profit group headed by Charlie Leocha, Director, said it has been pressing for changes to the TSA forbidden item list for years.
In testimony before Congress, CTA has argued that:
• Cockpit doors are fortified
• Every passenger goes through a check against the terrorist watch list
• Pointless searches for items that cannot be used to take over the cockpit of a plane or be used as an explosive should be discontinued
• Eliminating searches for these items that do not threaten an aircraft will save millions of dollars annually
Unfortunately, this effort by TSA to streamline security screening and focus on real threats will run into a public relations buzz saw, CTA said. "Those favoring such changes will be disappointed by such halfway actions and those favoring the current system will wail about personal safety. Flight attendants are already up in arms," CTA noted. Knives and box cutters - used in the 9/11 hijackings - are "emotional push buttons" CTA said.
"Since the actual screening process is not changing at all, passengers now will feel less safe after dealing with the same security line hassles. Plus, flight attendants and air marshals will be upset," CTA said.
"Some see TSA’s actions as designed to make their own work easier, while putting passengers and crew at more risk. The opportunity to couple these forbidden item changes with benefits to the public and other dramatic security improvements has been lost. Now,TSA is faced with the worst of both worlds."
CTA's analysis notes the effects of these new TSA rule may end up slowing security lines rather than speeding them along, costing more money rather than less, and adding a new level of confusion. The changes start April 25th.
The new TSA rules include:
• Small Pocket Knives – Small knives with non-locking blades smaller than 2.36 inches and less than 1/2 inch in width will be permitted
• Small Novelty Bats and Toy Bats
• Ski Poles
• Hockey Sticks
• Lacrosse Sticks
• Billiard Cues
• Golf Clubs (Limit Two)
CTA commented that: "Anyone who has seriously discussed material changes to the TSA forbidden items list with pilots, flight attendants and the public knows the emotional reactions that suggestions of allowing knives on planes generate. TSA should not have been blind-sided."
"What could have been a positive modification to our airport security system complete with savings of money and time and no decrease in real security is on its way to becoming a public relations disaster, " CTA said.
"I’m expecting TSA to backtrack. Whatever path TSA chooses, they need to present it as a way forward, not a step backwards. These kinds of changes need to be vetted carefully with the most important stakeholders in this process — airline crews, the flying public and TSA."