Delta Air Lines CEO opposes TSA policy on knives

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of Delta Air Lines on Friday joined the growing opposition to the Transportation Security Administration’s new policy allowing passengers to carry small knives onto planes.

Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole that he shares the “legitimate concerns” of the airline’s flight attendants about the new policy.

Allowing small knives to be carried on board after a ban of more than 11 years “will add little value to the customer security process flow in relation to the additional risk for our cabin staff and customers,” Anderson said in the letter, which was obtained by the Associated Press.

“If the purpose is to increase security checkpoint flow, there are much more effective steps we can take together to streamline the security checkpoints with risk-based screening mechanisms,” he said.

Delta, based in Atlanta, is the world’s second-largest airline. It is the first major airline to join not only flight attendants but pilots, federal air marshals and insurance companies in a burgeoning backlash to the policy. Pistole announced the policy on Tuesday.

TSA spokesman David Castelveter declined to comment on the letter. He said TSA plans to implement the policy on April 25 as scheduled.

Airlines for America, a trade association representing major U.S. airlines, has been supportive of TSA without explicitly endorsing the policy.

“We support the TSA’s approach of combining its vast experience with billions of passenger screenings with thorough risk-based assessments,” Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the association, said in response to a request Friday for the association’s position.

Anderson cited only small knives in his letter. The policy will also allow passengers to include in their carry-on luggage novelty-size baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs. Items like box cutters and razor blades are still prohibited.

Knives permitted under the policy must be able to fold up and have blades that are 2.36 inches or less in length and are less than 1⁄2-inch wide. The policy is aimed at allowing passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other small knives.

The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, representing nearly 90,000 flight attendants, said Thursday it is coordinating a nationwide legislative and public education campaign to reverse the policy. A petition posted by the flight attendants on the White House’s “We the People” website had nearly 12,000 signatures late Friday urging the administration to tell the TSA to keep knives off planes.

“The continued ban on dangerous objects is an integral layer in aviation security and must remain in place,” the coalition, which is made up of five unions, said in a statement.

Jon Adler, national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, whose 26,000 members include federal air marshals, complained he and other “stakeholders” weren’t consulted by TSA before the “countersafety policy” was announced. He said the association will ask Congress to block the policy change.

The Coalition of Airline Pilot Associations, which represents 22,000 pilots, said it opposes allowing knives of any kind in airliner cabins.

“We believe the (terrorism) threat is still real and the removal of any layer of security will put crewmembers and the flying public unnecessarily in harm’s way,” Mike Karn, the coalition’s president, said.

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