TSA in action. Photo by Dan Paluska http://www.flickr.com/photos/sixmilliondollardan/

Early in March, TSA announced significant changes in its prohibited list, specifically to permit previously prohibited items to be taken into airplane cabins. The changes to the prohibited list were to take place just a few days ago, but after many in the air travel industry, including flight attendants, airline executives and others, strongly objected to the changes, they were postponed, pending further review.

In my column, Pocket knives, golf clubs, hockey sticks and TSA: Another viewpoint I wrote about TSA’s rule changes.

Last Tuesday TSA announced, “In order to accommodate 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 will temporarily delay implementation of changes to the Prohibited Items List, originally scheduled to go into effect April 25…”

TSA needs to do more than consider industry input, passenger advocates and law enforcement experts. TSA needs to examine its rules changes using a little commonsense, then drop the changes all together.

TSA stated the following concerning the changes, “This decision aligns TSA more closely with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.”

I don’t understand why TSA needs to align itself with the poor decisions of other countries’ security agencies. TSA should make decisions which are best for the safety and security of citizens of the United States, regardless of what other countries are doing.

• Under the new TSA policy which has been postponed, “Small knives with non-locking blades smaller than 2.36” and less than 1/2 inch in width will be permitted”; however, “box cutters will remain prohibited in carry-on luggage.”

There is no doubt that passengers and crew, if attacked with a typical box cutter’s very sharp 1” blade, can be seriously hurt, but passengers and crew can also be seriously injured by pocket knife blades which stick out from their handle twice as far, especially if they have partially serrated blades. Not only can those pocket knives be used to slash like box cutters, they can be more effective than box cutters when used to stab.

It makes no sense to permit a more dangerous blade while continuing the box cutter ban.

• As part of their justification for permitting short pocket knives in airplane cabins, TSA stated the following: “This is part of an overall Risk-Based Security approach, which allows Transportation Security Officers to better focus their efforts on finding higher threat items such as explosives.”

It is certainly true that explosives of the right type and quantity can destroy or crash airplanes and are therefore more dangerous than a few pocket knives on an airplane, but permitting some small knives and not others will make carry-on and passenger screening even more difficult than it is already at airport checkpoints.

Today, TSA TSOs (Transportation Security Officers) merely have to identify if a passenger is trying to bring a knife, any knife, into a plane’s cabin. If the new rules go into effect, TSOs will have to differentiate between knives of different blade lengths and types. The additional screening needed could become a nightmare for TSOs. Irrate passengers with knives they insist comply with TSA rules, will demand TSOs measure and examine their blades, rather than have them confiscated or discarded.

The unintended consequences of this rule change could cause lines to snake through TSA checkpoints far longer than ever before.

• Under the new TSA rules, passengers can bring hockey sticks into airplane cabins. The National Hockey League (NHL) understands the serious injury a hockey stick can inflict if used to spear, slash, or swing like a bat. As a result, they penalize such uses of hockey sticks extremely seriously, including for some players having lengthy suspensions.

Apparently, TSA doesn’t think hockey sticks could be used as dangerous weapons in airplanes. I invite them to speak to NHL referees and players.

• Under the new TSA rules, passengers can also bring ski poles, lacrosse sticks, billiard cues, and two golf clubs. There is no doubt that these items can be used as potent weapons on board a plane, too. People have been bludgeoned to death with a golf club, for example.

Just as important, these sports items are long and don’t fit well into the overhead bins of airplanes. Boarding is already taking far too long in planes these days. Couple these sport poles and sticks with passengers using more “oversized” carry-ons than ever before and airlines, in my experience, generally not enforcing carry-on luggage rules, packing carry-ons in the overhead bins in planes will make boarding take longer and longer, and more and more carry-ons with important valuables and belongings will have to be gate checked.

TSA management needs to use their collective commonsense and admit their prohibited item list changes were a serious mistake. TSA needs to totally drop the changes for the good of air passengers and airline crews.