By Elizabeth Harrington CNS News
Flight attendants are asking airline passengers to petition the White House as part of an effort to get the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to reverse its decision to allow small knives on planes.
The Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, which represents some 90,000 flight attendants, is handing out leaflets at airports across the country, encouraging passengers to sign a “No Knives on Planes” petition on the White House website.
“Before the morning of September 11, 2001, the threat of using commercial aircraft as a weapon was unknown,” the petition states. “At great cost, we know better today. The TSA was created because blades on airplanes were used to cause this deadly attack on U.S. soil.” (The 9/11 hijackers used box cutters to gain control of the airplanes before flying them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.)
“There’s no excuse for reversal on the policy to ban knives from the aircraft cabin,” it states.
“Flight Attendants serve as the last line of defense in aviation security — responsible for ensuring the safety, health and security of the passengers in our care,” the petition continues. “Join us in keeping our aircraft cabin safe. TELL THE TSA TO KEEP KNIVES OUT OF THE CABIN.”
As of early Tuesday morning, the petition had 42,926 signatures. It needs 100,000 signatures by April 5 to generate a White House response.
Last month the TSA announced it would begin allowing small pocket knives on board planes, saying they no longer pose a threat to airline security.
“A small pocket knife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft and an improvised explosive device will,” said TSA Administrator John Pistole.
“And we know, from internal covert testing, searching for these items, which will not blow up an aircraft, can distract our officers from focusing on the components of an improvised explosive device,” he said.
In recent weeks, the flight attendant association has handed out leaflets at airports in an attempt to block the plan. On Monday, the leaflets were distributed at airports including: Chicago O’Hare International, Denver International, Miami International, New York LaGuardia, Los Angeles International, Phoenix SkyHarbor, Pittsburg International, Sea-Tac International and Washington Dulles International.
“The new rule does not make sense for combating potential terrorist attacks nor the daily disturbances we handle by de-escalating conflicts or asking passengers to help us contain problems,” the leaflet states. “Aircraft cabins are fuller than ever and Flight Attendant staffing has been cut. Introducing knives and other weapons into these situations makes our job harder and everyone in the cabin less safe.
“It makes no sense to choose between guarding against a hostile take-over attempt and an explosive device,” it continues. “We need to ensure air travel is secured against all threats to our safety and security.”
The knives-on-planes plan has prompted a bipartisan group of 133 members of Congress to send a letter to Pistole, asking him to withdrawal the policy.
“Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and key stakeholders agree that TSA’s decision to allow knives on-board planes seems misguided, and frankly, dangerous,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who organized the letter along with Congressmen Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).
“I am proud to have helped lead this letter to urge TSA to reverse this policy until it at the very least meaningfully engages with pilots, flight attendants and transportation security officers,” he said. “Passenger and flight crew safety in our skies is too important to allow policy to be made without input from all interested parties.”