Flight Attendants Protest TSA's New Small-Knife Policy, Seek Public's Help

The Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions says the policy change is dangerous

By Melissa Pamer and Hetty Chang
|  Friday, Mar 22, 2013  |  Updated 12:50 AM EDT
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Flight attendants handed out flyers at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday in an effort to get public support to stop a TSA policy change that will small knives and other formerly banned items on flights. Hetty Chang reports from LAX for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 21, 2013.

Hetty Chang

Flight attendants handed out flyers at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday in an effort to get public support to stop a TSA policy change that will small knives and other formerly banned items on flights. Hetty Chang reports from LAX for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 21, 2013.

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Flight attendants at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday sought to enlist airline passengers in their effort to stop the federal government from allowing small knives and other items they called "pre-9/11 weapons" on planes.

The event at LAX was part of the launch of a campaign at airports across the country in which flight attendants are seeking support for the reversal of a controversial TSA decision announced March 6.

"Can you help us keep knives off airplanes?" flight attendants asked as they handed out leaflets to travelers.

The Transportation Security Administration's plan to begin allowing pocket knives – as well as sports equipment such as golf clubs and hockey sticks – is set to go into effect April 25.

Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, representing 90,000 airline employees, on Thursday held leafleting events at Los Angeles International Airport, Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C., and Norfolk International Airport in southern Virginia.

Flight attendants handed out leaflets that read, in part: "The new rule does not make sense for combating potential terrorist attacks nor the daily disturbances we handle by de-escalating conflicts or asking passengers to help us contain problems. Aircraft cabins are fuller than ever and Flight Attendant staffing has been cut. Introducing knives and other weapons into these situations makes our job harder and everyone in the cabin less safe."

The coalition said in a statement that the events are intended to encourage passengers to call members of Congress to favor legislation stopping the "abrupt policy change."

At LAX, several dozen flight attendants spoke to passengers waiting in line.

"I think the idea of having knives on planes is absolutely ridiculous. There's no benefit to the public," said Dante Harris of the union coalition. "It's obvious that we can't introduce another variable into security by creating a rule that allows knives on board."

Flight attendants said golf clubs, souvenir baseball bats and the other tems that will soon be allowed on board "can be used as weapons."

"We just want to be able to protect ourselves and protect our passengers, " one flight attendant said.

Knives will be permitted unless they're longer than 2.36 inches in length and no more than a half inch at their widest point, according to the planned TSA rule (image embedded below).

"Now that they have to measure it's going to take more time for the flying public to get through security," Harris said.

Box cutters and knives with locking blades will continue to remain banned.

Passengers at LAX on Thursday questioned why they would soon be allowed to bring pocketknives on planes, but still cannot bring more and few fluid ounces of personal care products such as shampoo or saline for contact lenses.

A TSA spokeswoman, Lorie Dankers, said in an email that some of those products could be more dangerous than a small knife.

"Liquids can be used as the ingredients for an explosive, which could be catastrophic to an airplane," Dankers wrote. "Limiting the quantity of liquids limits the likelihood an explosive could be missed on board a flight."

Flight attendants, meanwhile, are pointing their supporters toward a website – noknivesonplanes.com – that sends people to a petition in opposition to the TSA policy change on what the site calls "pre-9/11 weapons."

More than 37,000 people had signed the petition by Thursday afternoon; the goal was 100,000 signatures.

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