Unions Cheer As Transportation Security Chief Permanently Drops Knives-On-Planes Scheme


WASHINGTON—The multi-union coalition, led by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, that opposed the Transportation Security Administration’s knives-on-planes scheme cheered on June 6 as TSA Chief John Pistole permanently dropped it.

Pistole first floated the idea in March, announcing he would unilaterally let airplane passengers bring small knives, golf clubs, and toy baseball bats, among other banned items, with them aboard aircraft. Before that, the passengers had to pack them in hold-bound luggage or not bring them at all.

The unions, led by AFA-CWA and including the Teamsters, the Transport Wor-kers, the Machinists and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, objected strongly. The United Airlines sector of the Pilots objected later, as did pilots at American. So did AFGE, which represents the TSA airport screeners and air marshals.

The unions said small knives equal the box cutters the al-Qaida terrorist hijackers used to commandeer three planes and fly them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington in 2001. Passengers and crew fought with the terrorists aboard a fourth hijacked plane, which crashed in a Pennsylvania farm field.

Under pressure, Pistole suspended his pro-knives edict in late April. Now he’s made the suspension permanent.

“We promised ‘No Knives on Planes Ever Again,’ and today that promise was kept,” the unions’ Flight Attendant Coalition announced. “Terrorists armed only with knives killed thousands of Americans on 9/11/2001. As the women and men on the front lines in the air, we vowed to do everything in our power to protect passengers and flight crews from harm and prevent that type of atrocity from happening ever again.

“We commend the TSA for revising its policy based on input from front-line aviation workers with the greatest stake in the rule change. The result is better security policy and the assurance that our nation’s aviation security system continues to be vigilant for knives that could be used in a terrorist attack or criminal act against passengers or crew.”

By the time Pistole reversed course, he had lost support from the unions, the airlines and Capitol Hill. AFA-CWA cited the strong anti-knife, pro-safety stand of Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., as a big reason it endorsed him in the Democratic primary for a vacant U.S. Senate seat. Two of the hijacked planes, one of them a United plane, came from Boston’s Logan Airport. Dozens of lawmakers backed a bill to ban the knives. One was a longtime pro-worker pro-airline passenger advocate, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., just before he died on June 3.