TSA will allow small knives, golf clubs onto airplanes

In a rare, welcome moment of sanity, the TSA has announced that it will allow small knives, golf clubs, hockey sticks, wiffle bats, and similar items on planes. Given that you are allowed to bring on canes -- that is, clubs -- and 40-oz duty-free liquor bottles -- that is, long glass knives, this represents no new risk to flight crews. However, aviation employees are beefing and saying that this represents the TSA's convenience, not theirs. Gee, thanks.

On the other hand, they still ban box-cutters -- small knives of a specific, but not particularly lethal form -- because "there’s just too much emotion associated with them, particularly the box cutters." That's from John Pistole, head of the TSA, and apparent believer in sympathetic magic.

The agency will permit knives with retractable blades shorter than 6 centimeters (2.36 inches) and narrower than 1/2 inch, TSA Administrator John Pistole said today at an aviation security conference in Brooklyn. The change, to conform with international rules, takes effect April 25.

Passengers will also be allowed to board flights with some other items that are currently prohibited, including sticks used to play lacrosse, billiards and hockey, ski poles and as many as two golf clubs, Pistole said.

TSA Will Permit Knives, Golf Clubs on U.S. Planes [Jeff Plungis/Bloomberg]

(Thanks, Brian!)


  1. I haven’t been able to travel for a year, was not looking forward to airport security during the sequester, but now you tell me I can actually bring my Swiss Army knife and Leatherman all-in-one on the trip we’re taking in less than 2 weeks?

    Whoo-hoo!  Finally, some good news out of TSA.

      1. The Leatherman Micra has a blade that’s just over 4 cm, and even has inch/cm markings on the case. It’s about the most useful thing I carry, and it was worthwhile to replace it after forgetting to leave it at home the last time I had to travel by air.

    1. Your Leatherman has a clasp lock, unless I misidentified the model. Also, longer than 6cm as Max said. Also, wider than .5″. Sorry mate, you’re SOL like the rest of us.

  2. The TSA has a terrible track record of changing policies and getting the word out to the front-line workers.  It will probably be two years before you can effectively do this.  You’ll be able to carry on in New York but then when you try to return in Dallas, the TSA agents will take the knife and then completely ignore the printout you have from their website saying it’s allowed.  They just have to say “It’s a security concern” and all conversation is over. 

    1. I was just thinking the same thing.

      1. Agency head announces policy change
      2. Citizen takes policy change literally
      3. Citizen gets tazed and shipped off to Gitmo

  3. Up to two golf clubs? Seems to me if someone is off to play gold they’re likely to have a set of clubs. I’d be more worried about someone carrying a single club than someone who has a golf bag full…

    1. A single club would be suspicious, but that kind of logic is why you will never be in management level government. 

      Only the nine-iron is considered an assault club, but the geTSApo has banned any golf bag capable of carrying more than eight clubs of any type.  Anyhow, why does anyone NEED more than two clubs? 

      I suppose we should chew on the tiny bone thrown our way and be satisfied to own nail clippers with pride.

    2. A few years ago on the subway my roommate and I saw a guy get off at the 59th Street station carrying a single golf club.  My roommate then commented “That guy is quitting nine-iron style.”

      Since then I view single golf clubs with both admiration and fear.

    3. Regardless of TSA rules wouldn’t a full set of golf clubs occupy more than the volume allowed by airlines for carry-on items?

    4. A full bag wouldn’t fit as carry-on, but some golfers may want to bring in one or two clubs that are expensive, like a special driver, to make sure they don’t get stolen or damaged while the others are checked in.

    1. Too soon!  How can you even ask that kind of thing after what happened with the Vanilla Incident of United 204?

      1. That was artificially flavored Vanillia.  Had it been natural organic Vanilla flavoring there would’ve been no problem.

  4. I think the “too much emotion” comment about box cutters
    doesn’t demonstrate that he believes in
    sympathetic magic, but in P.R.

  5. This is an unacceptable risk. I plan to smuggle 5 ounces of hand sanitizer onto my next flight, in case I need to use it to defend myself from a knife-wielding maniac.

    1. No worries.  I’ll defend the plane with my now legal on-board hockey stick.  I’ll check him into the drinks cart.

  6. And it took how many years for them to finally come to their senses on this?  Now maybe we’ll be able to bring toiletries with us too.

  7. “baseball bats less than 24 inches long”
    I think this is counter-intuitive; wouldn’t short stick be easier to swing in closed quarters?

    1.  Maybe the size length here is a storage concern rather than a safety one? I think that’s the bag length limit too, right?

  8. How serious is the can’t bring boxcutters on a plane problem for airplane travelers? Let’s prioritize here.

  9. I’m sorry, but in what universe does permitting knives and banning Pantene represent a “moment of sanity”?

  10. Looks like someone’s run the numbers and decided they’re spending more money checking for this stuff than they’d save by paying out on lawsuits related to misuse of this stuff.

  11. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to hurt someone with a ball point pen than it is with a nailclipper, but rationality isn’t what shaped TSA policy for the last decade.  I’ll call this a toe delicately dipped into the cold waters of reason.

    1. My husband owns a “tactical ballpoint pen.” That is a real thing. It is a small baton used by police or martial artists. This one has a ballpoint pen nib stuck in it so that it is now a “pen” and not a “weapon.”

      1. Yup.  They’ve been sell those at ThinkGeek for years.  It sounds like a joke, but it’s a thing allright. 

  12. Wait a sec – did the head of the TSA just admit that their policies are crafted not for real security, but for emotional security?

  13. I was wondering how this would be reported here, and commented on: either approval for a step in the right direction or snide derision.

    No matter what security steps you take, there’s always the chance of a disaster, and when disaster happens, anyone who suggested lessening “security measures” will be handed the blame.  This is why, no matter how rational it is, knowing that eventually someone will be stabbed to death on a plane with a pocket knife must weigh heavily on the head of anyone trying to make one of these decisions.

    So the TSA head makes a momentus choice, reaching out to the anti-security-theater crowd.  Hope his hand doesn’t need too many stitches.

    1. That argument doesn’t hold water. If someone gets stabbed with a formerly-banned item that you’ve decided to allow, the blowback isn’t any greater than when someone gets stabbed with an item that was allowed all along. The idea is not and never has been to keep passengers from getting stabbed with whatever object comes to hand (why should you expect to be safer from random stabbings on a plane than in a bus or train car or walking down the street?), it’s to secure the airplane from hijacking. Any measure that does nothing towards that goal should be dropped, regardless of how much better it makes ignorant people feel.

      1. That’s wonderfully logical and has nothing to do with how it will be reported in the media or assessed by those who determine Mr. Pistole’s employment.

  14. Was it ever definitively confirmed that the 9/11 hijackers even used box cutters? I heard conflicting reports on that.

  15. Passengers can soon carry on bats http://cbc.sh/ibtaWSY  | Concerned that bats can carry rabies? Read about the TSA’s secretive Ozzy-marshal program.

  16. Thank goodness, though, they still have that ban on a full bottle of shampoo! We are still safe!!

  17. Cory, box-cutters are absolutely lethal in the hands of someone with murderous intent.  At my hospital, we recently took care of a man whose throat was slit from “ear to ear”.  The police report said that he was found on the ground with a box cutter next to him.  No major blood vessels were lacerated, but he lost perhaps two liters of blood from the minor ones.  And his trachea was completely transected, cut in half.  We normally reach the trachea with a breathing tube by slipping it in through the mouth, right?  This man was holding has hand over his gaping neck wound when the trauma surgeon went to see him in the emergency department.  The surgeon asked him to remove his hand so he could examine the injury.  When the surgeon then saw the stump of windpipe, he simply slipped a breathing tube directly into his trachea.

    No joke, I was in the operating room when he came for surgery two minutes later.  Without prompt medical attention, he would have died quickly.

    I’m with the TSA on this issue, if little else.

    1. Well yes, you can kill one person on a plane with a box cutter, but you can kill one person on a plane with many items or barehanded. After you attack one person though, the other passengers will swarm you. Even if you take someone hostage, they’re not going to hand control of the plane over to you anymore.

  18. Remember, any one less than 12 or older than 75 does not need to take off their shoes or light jackets.  I guess there are no young or old terrorists.  Also — every airline hands out potentially lethal weapons to anyone requesting a can of soda.   Rip it in half.  Easy.  Sharp.  Dangerous.  Security Theatre.

  19. However, aviation employees are beefing and saying that this represents the TSA’s convenience, not theirs.

    Yep. They ran out of storage space, and those auctions didn’t bring in as much money as they hoped. A couple of more years and they’ll let you bring bazookas on board.

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