Thursday, December 22, 2005

All I want for Christmas is a four-inch blade

Today, the new Prohibited Items List for air passengers goes into effect. The changes to the list of prohibited items were announced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) earlier this month. The announcement includes the following paragraph:
Beginning December 22, scissors with a cutting edge of four inches or less and tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers smaller than seven inches will be permitted on board. Scissors longer than four inches and tools such as crowbars, drills, hammers, and saws will continue to be prohibited from carry-on bags. Lighters will continue to be banned from the cabin of aircraft and in checked baggage.
Flight attendants, in particular, are very unhappy with this change. Several flight attendant unions have come out officially against the new measure.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents cabin crews at American Airlines, issued a news release earlier this month in response to the changed rules:
"We are appalled that we are not being listened to by the federal government as they downgrade cabin security standards," said APFA President, Tommie Hutto-Blake. She continued, "There is absolutely no reason for these potential weapons to be on board the aircraft. Passengers are free to transport these items in their checked luggage. We believe that there are many issues that need to be addressed to streamline the passenger screening process and putting passengers and cabin crew at greater risk is not the answer."

The TSA confiscates tens of thousands of items a day at airports, mostly sharp objects. It should be noted that had the sharp objects used as weapons by terrorists on 9/11 been confiscated, it would have changed the course of history.
APFA is urging its members to write to TSA Assistant Secretary Edmund Hawley, as well as their representatives in the U.S. Congress, to voice their feelings about the new rules.

Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants - CWA, also known as AFA, testified recently about this issue before the U.S. Senate:
"The prohibited items list is an integral layer in making our aviation system secure and it must remain in place," said Patricia Friend, AFA-CWA International President in her testimony. "As the front line safety and security personnel onboard every commercial passenger aircraft in this country, 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."
AFA, which represents 46,000 flight attendants at 21 airlines, has since launched an on-line petition to keep dangerous items off planes. The campaign, called Leave All Blades Behind, is seeking to reverse the TSA's "misguided decision."

Meanwhile, back in the rank-and-file, some flight attendants I know have told me that, until such time as the prohibition of such potential weapons is re-instated, they plan to take their own "blades" along with them on their trips.

"If passengers can have four-inch blades with them in the cabin, so can I," said one flight attendant who works for a mainline carrier. She said she planned to ask her family to get her some nice, sharp scissors - about four inches long - for Christmas.