The Transportation Security Administration will allow travelers to bring small knives, golf clubs and hockey sticks into airline cabins for the first time since 2001, TSA chief John Pistole announced Tuesday.
The change, intended to conform with international rules, will take effect April 25. The announcement came as Pistole spoke to a security conference in New York.
Pistole stressed the importance of risk-based screening, to focus on the biggest threats to aircraft rather than holding everyone to the same security standard.
Security experts such as Kip Hawley, the former head of TSA under President George W. Bush, have long advocated a less detailed screening of passengers at airport checkpoints because the hardening of cockpit doors would prevent a terrorist from gaining control of a plane as hijackers did on Sept. 11, 2001.
But flight attendants blasted the change in policy for endangering passengers and crew members outside the cockpit.
The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, representing nearly 90,000 Flight Attendants at carriers nationwide, blasted the decision.
"Today's announcement to permit knives back into the aircraft cabin is a poor and shortsighted decision by the TSA," the group said in a statement. "As the last line of defense in the cabin and key aviation partners, we believe that these proposed changes will further endanger the lives of all flight attendants and the passengers we work so hard to keep safe and secure."
Stacy Martin, president of Southwest Airlines' flight-attendants union, Transport Workers Union of America Local 556, called the decision "outrageous."
"This policy was designed to make the lives of TSA staff easier, but not make flights safer," Martin says. "While we agree that a passenger wielding a small knife or swinging a golf club or hockey stick poses less of a threat to the pilot locked in the cockpit, these are real threats to passengers and flight attendants in the passenger cabin."