Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today asked the Transportation Safety Administration to reverse its new policy to allow knives back onto passenger airplanes, citing the opposition of flight attendants and federal law enforcement officers, along with the lessons of the September 11th attacks involving box cutters. Rep. Markey pushed to continue the ban on knives, scissors and other bladed devices in 2005 and 2006, after TSA last relaxed these rules. He was joined today by the Association of Flight Attendants in opposing the rule change.
In a letter sent to TSA head John Pistole, Rep. Markey expresses concern about the safety of passengers and fight attendants, and whether there was "sufficient consultation" with those who would bear the most harm from an attack using bladed weapons in an airplane. That letter can be found HERE.
"The attacks on September 11, 2001 demonstrated that in the confined environment of an airplane, even a small blade in the hands of a terrorist can lead to disaster," writes Rep. Markey. "The new, more permissive rules announced this week by TSA are opposed by the Flight Attendants Union Coalition and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association as an unnecessary change that needlessly places the lives of airline passengers and flight attendants at risk."
The AFA weighed in against the TSA policy today with Rep. Markey, noting his prior work on this issue. The AFA represents 60,000 flight attendants at more than 20 airlines.
"The Association of Flight Attendants has been a key advocate for aviation security and a strong proponent of a risk-based approach to airport screening," said Sara Nelson, AFA International VP and a Boston-based United Airlines flight attendant. "That's why we strongly oppose the TSA rule change that threatens to allow knives on the aircraft. We commend Congressman Markey for his longstanding leadership on this issue, including the introduction of a bill in 2005 that opposed any loosening of the restrictions for bringing knives aboard aircraft. For years, AFA has partnered with TSA on important security issues, which makes it hard to understand why we were not consulted on this policy reversal. As support continues to build for keeping the ban on knives, we call on the TSA to rescind its policy change to ensure the safety of crewmembers and the traveling public."
In 2005 TSA first relaxed post-9/11 rules to permit potential bladed weapons onto passenger planes in carry-on baggage. In response, Rep. Markey joined flight attendants to fight the relaxed rules, including pushing his "Leave All Blades Behind Act" that would have kept intact the ban on razor-sharp implements like scissors or small knives. However, the TSA refused to reverse course.
The new TSA rules permit folding knives with blades shorter than 2.36 inches and narrower than 0.5 inches to be carried into aircraft cabins, the first time since 9/11 that knives are allowed inside of a passenger plane cabin.
"Just as I joined flight attendants and other concerned workers and citizens following TSA's relaxation of safety rules in 2005, today I share their deep concern that allowing knives on a plane is not the way to protect flight attendants, passengers, and all Americans," said Rep. Markey.