WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration heeded backlash Wednesday and dropped a controversial plan it to allow knives back on planes for the first time since 9/11.
The agency stunned flight attendants and other aviation stakeholders in March when it announced plans allow folding knives with blades shorter than 2.36 inches and not more than 1/2 inch wide past checkpoints, along with sporting goods like hockey sticks and golf clubs.
Lawmakers including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island, Brooklyn), blasted the decision, while Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) and others rapped the TSA’s failure to first consult flight attendants and other groups affected.
TSA Administrator John Pistole argued that the agency confiscates around 2,000 of the small knives at airport checkpoints daily, and that lifting the ban would allow screeners to focus attention on bigger threats, like explosives.
Under the gun, however, the TSA announced on April 23 — two days before the change was to take effect — that it was delaying the move.
“We promised ‘No Knives on Planes Ever Again,'” the national Flight Attendants Coalition said in a statement after Wednesday’s announcement, “and today that promise was kept.”
Hijackers are believed to have used box cutters and other small blades to kill flight crews, steal four airliners and kill nearly 3,000 people on 9/11, which gave way to the TSA’s creation later that year.
Wednesday’s decision would help “prevent that type of atrocity from happening ever again,” the coalition said.
Grimm cosponsored legislation that would ban the policy change entirely. He and bill author Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) drafted a letter urging Pistole to reconsider the decision, and collected signatures from 143 other members of the House.
Last month Schumer co-sponsored legislation that would solely ban knives from planes, but not athletic equipment.
The TSA’s Wednesday decisions maintains the ban on certain sporting goods as well.
Grimm commended the TSA for the policy change, which he said “will ensure that we continue to maintain the highest levels of safety for passengers and flight crews.
Schumer lauded Wednesday’s move, which he said would allow screeners “to focus on more important things than measuring the length of knives, and sorting the ‘good’ knives from the ‘bad.'”
King, the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called the reversal “inevitable.”
“They started off wrong by not talking to the air marshals or flight attendants’ union and it blew up in their face,” King said, adding that the agency “did the right thing” by reversing the policy.
The TSA said in a statement that it reached the decision after “extensive engagement with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee,” which is a panel of industry representatives, along with “law enforcement officials, passenger advocates, and other important stakeholders.”