DENVER - In late April, the Transportation Security Administration's list of prohibited items will be updated to allow air travelers to have small knives in their carry-on luggage.
"For the past several years, it's been pretty well known the small knives don't really pose the threat they posed prior to 9-11," said Jeff Price, an Aviation professor at Metro State University. "Passengers would intercede. Flight crew is trained in self defense. There are more Air Marshals."
But Price said automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration have sped up the process for changing prohibited items.
"Within the next two months, we're going to see the TSA lines get longer and longer and longer [because of the cuts]," said Price. "If we want to make the lines go faster, let's reduce the number of tiny, little objects we're looking for and start looking for larger, real-threat items."
But flight attendant unions are speaking out against the change, saying it will endanger passengers and flight crews.
"It is a step backwards from the advances we have made since 9-11," said Ken Kyle, head of the Association of Flight Attendants at United Airlines in Denver. "We believe this is an impractical and unnecessary change. Hopefully, this will not contribute to another incident."
The TSA's new Prohibited Items List goes into effect on April 25. The new rules will allow small knives that meet the following criteria:
- The blade must be no more than 2.36 inches or 6 cm in length from tip to where it meets the handle or hilt
- The blade must be no more than ½ inch in width
- It cannot have a locking or fixed blade
- It cannot have a molded grip
- It cannot be a razor or box cutter
The agency said the decision to allow small knives in carry-on luggage was made in consultation with International Civil Aviation Organization Standards and European transportation security agencies.
"What you're seeing is a maturity of the aviation security system," said Price. "It's not designed to prevent one individual person getting injured in the cabin. We don't want to see those bad things happen, but the system is designed to prevent that aircraft from being hijacked."