Flight Attendants Question Decision, Some May Refuse To
Citing a need to focus
screening efforts on items of greater potential danger to
passengers, TSA Director Edmund "Kip" Hawley (file photo, right)
announced Friday the agency will relax its screening guidelines on
certain items that have not been allowed in the cabin of a
passenger airliner since 9/11.
Under the new guidelines -- which, if approved by the Department
of Homeland Security and the OMD, would take effect on December 22
-- scissors less than 4" long will be allowed through security
checkpoints, in carry-on bags and on a person's self. Small tools
such as screwdrivers and wrenches will also be allowed onboard, as
long as the items aren't more than 7" in length and do not have a
sharp cutting edge.
As was reported earlier this week in
Aero-News, the TSA said the decision was made to allow
the screeners to focus their efforts on what is seen as the next
big terrorist threat to domestic airliners -- explosives in the
cabin. Hawley told reporters Friday the TSA has devoted its recent
training efforts to identifying both assembled IEDs, as well as
partially assembled components, in carry-on luggage.
"I am convinced, that the time now spent searching bags for
small scissors and tools can be better utilized to focus on the far
more dangerous threat of explosives," said Hawley.
The TSA director added this explosives training paid off
recently for a screening crew in St. Louis, who found a hidden
explosive device on a carry-on bag that had been planted by
According to figures released by the TSA, internal studies have
shown that checkpoint screeners spend half of their screening time
searching for cigarette lighters -- a recently banned item -- and
that they open one out of every four bags to remove a pair of
Faced with limited
personnel, and with other measures in place to prevent a 9/11-style
attack such as hardened cockpit doors that would prevent a
terrorist from commandeering an aircraft with box cutters or
scissors, the TSA says time saved by not pulling bags to
investigate X-ray images of scissors and similar items would be
better utilized searching for IEDs, and by conducting random
There are those, however, who question that logic -- most
adamantly, flight attendants who now feel they will be placed at
"Obviously you want an explosive-free cabin," said US Airways
flight attendants union president Mike Flores to Aero-News. "But
you don't do it at the expense of prohibiting the other items, you
do it in addition to that."
Flores added some flight attendants will refuse to fly if the
new guidelines are put in place -- which could put them out of a
Hawley told reporters Friday the flight attendants' concerns are
unfounded. "The items we're mentioning today are not a risk for the
transportation system," he said.
Flores disagrees. "I can't see that Kip Hawley's assessment of
risk with a 7-inch screwdriver impaled in my neck is not worthy of
their protection," he told Aero-News.