Over Pocket Knives, Flight Attendants Get Totally Wrong Kind of Fear of Flying


Fear of Flying
Fear of Flying

As noted at Reason 24/7, flight attendants have got their panties, boxers and boxer-briefs in a bunch over the Transportation Security Administration's decision to let Americans, once again, carry small pocket knives onto airplanes. It's hard to imagine an organization taking on a more useless, fearmongering role than the TSA, but the Association of Flight Attendants has met the bar. This is especially annoying for those of us who can remember a time when you could actually board a plane with useful tools without inspiring fear in flight attendants and fellow passengers — a situation that should prevail once again, especially since we've already implemented the two changes that make a difference in airplane security: hardening cockpit doors and making passengers and crew aware that they have to take an active role.

I remember flying from Boston to Philadelphia, in the early 1990s, to buy a motorcycle that a friend of a friend was selling cheap. I had a one-way ticket and a carry-on bag with a helmet, a change of clothes and a bunch of tools to make sure the bike was tuned for the ride back to Boston. I had long hair and wore boots and a leather jacket. At the security line at Logan, a guard x-rayed my bag, then cocked an eye at me in what I understood as the universal symbol for, "what the fuck?" I explained the situation and we talked bikes for a minute before the passengers behind me started complaining (something you could do then without fear of being anally probed by federal employees). Then I went on my way. I remember that the flight attendants managed to seat me and take my drink order without dissolving into panic.

Flash forward to today, when the Association of Flight Attendants writes on its site:

The TSA was created because blades on airplanes were used to cause this deadly attack on U.S. soil.

There's no excuse for reversal on the policy to ban knives from the aircraft cabin. Multi-layered security, including prohibition of items that could pose a threat, ensures U.S. aviation is the safest in the world. The ban on dangerous objects is an integral layer in aviation security.

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. Join us in keeping our aircraft cabin safe. TELL THE TSA TO KEEP KNIVES OUT OF THE CABIN.

Pppphhht. And I mean that. What crap.

The TSA is a useless jobs program that was created to make us all feel that the government was doing something to protect us from nasty terrorists who, frankly, got away with the horror of 9/11 because people didn't understand that their hijackers weren't the old-fashioned, take-me-to Cuba variety. Once they learned what was intended, the passengers of Flight 93 prevented their plane from being used as a weapon, though at the loss of their own lives since the hijackers had already seized control. Subsequent hijacking attempts have been deterred, again and again, by passengers who have overpowered and, sometimes, killed would-be assailants. Times have changed because people now understand that they can't be passive.

Leatherman Micra
Niki Odolphie

As mentioned above, even frequent air security antagonists Bruce Schneier and Kip Hawley agree that two security measures have really made a difference since 2001, and those measures were implemented years ago, involving passenger attitude and cockpit doors. They are not threatened, in any way, by the TSA allowing passengers to board with "[s]mall knives with non-locking blades smaller than 2.36 inches and less than 1/2 inch in width." 

I hesitate to point this out for fear of sending the flight attendants' association into an organizational panic, but the same TSA notice allowing for small knives also allows novelty bats, pool cues and golf clubs.

Honestly, in a bar fight, I'm reaching for the pool cue, not my Leatherman micra.

Long permitted, without apparent mayhem resulting, are seven-inch screwdivers and knitting needles. But itty-bitty pocket knives, we're told, will be the doom of us all. I'm holding out for straight razors. I hate keeping a bag of disposables in the bathroom cabinet just for use on business trips.

NEXT: Egypt's Rate of Protest Highest Worldwide

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’m surprised that there’s no airline with strippers instead of flight attendants.

    1. Didn’t Hooters try having an airline? Not exactly the same thing, of course.

    2. Because ppl don’t want 55-year old strippers?

      1. Then you have not seen “The Layover” episode where Tony Bourdain goes to the Clermont Lounge in Atlanta. Apparently, there is such a thing as going to a strip club ironically.

  2. Long permitted, without apparent mayhem resulting, are seven-inch screwdivers and knitting needles.

    “Long” permitted, eh?

    Obviously the Association of Flight Attendants has a problem only with *short* implements of destruction.

  3. I had long hair and wore boots and a leather jacket.

    Yep. Story checks out.

  4. Flight attendants are the last line of defense in aviation security? Yeah, that’s why the airlines hire such badasses.

    Pre-9/11, I was able to take two half-gallon plastic milk containers full of uncut, unfiltered bourbon through security at the Lexington, KY airport. That might’ve been a routine event at that airport, though.

  5. I had long hair and wore boots and a leather jacket.

    So, what went wrong? When did it all fall apart 2chili? 😉

  6. flight attendants have got their panties, boxers and boxer-briefs in a bunch

    My random sampling of flight attendants indicates that they do not wear boxers.

    1. I question the randomness of your sample.

      1. True, it has been Lufthansa heavy.

  7. Fuck the stewardesses union (but not the stewardesses since they are no longer being selected based on sex and hotness). Also fuck the pilots union and the rampers union and the TSA.

  8. “Small knives with non-locking blades smaller than 2.36 inches and less than 1/2 inch in width.”

    Which means I still can’t bring along my little H-1 Dragonfly. Locking blades are a safety feature. Why does the government like to ban safety features?

    1. They like to ban any safety feature that they didn’t think of, since those are the safety features that actually work.

      1. They only ban the safety features they don’t care about. The ones they like, they make mandatory.

    2. IOW Cub Scout pocket knives are too dangerous.

  9. You know who else preferred to use small knives?

    1. Your mom?

  10. The TSA is a useless jobs program

    I thought it was a subsidy to the airlines, relieving them of the cost of security screening.

  11. “The TSA was created because blades on airplanes were used to cause this deadly attack on U.S. soil.”

    I have read, more than once, that there is no evidence that “boxcutters” or “blades” were used on 9-11. Am I unaware of something that’s been discovered?

    1. I once read a story about unicorns. Reading is fun.

    2. Unaware by not reading the 9/11 Commission?

      Here’s a link to the .html file:

      Search for knives and box cutters, you’ll find several statements about them.

      Do us all a favor and do some research before you post, and when you do, put a link to it, because otherwise it is just an opinion.

  12. While recently riding Amtrak it was pointed out to me I was not allowed to have my little pocket knife on board. Apparently they’re afraid I may hijack the train and drive it into a building or something.

    1. When I went to Providence last year the station agent gave me a card saying pocket knives under 4″ long were fine.

  13. The flight attendants know about the golf club bit too. Most of the interviews I have seen seem to stress the “we have to deal with drunk and belligerent passengers” angle, more than the terrorist angle. They seem to think that it is the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that nobody is ever rude to them at work and that even the possibility that someone get drunk and run amok with a pocket knife be eliminated.

    The golf club one is weird. They limit you to just a couple of clubs. I’m not sure what difference it makes if you have 2 clubs or 13 clubs if you are a terrorist. How many golf clubs can you wield at one time?

  14. I still remember carrying my benchmade mini-reflex switchblade on every flight. Japan was the only place that kindy asked me to check it… with no other drama.

    ~~ break, break ~~

    If flight attendants are the last line of defense, then how much unarmed combat training do they receive?

    1. *kindly

  15. As long as hijacking the airplane isn’t in the offing, flight attendants have about as much chance of being stabbed as restaurant wait staff. One doesn’t hear pleas by them to get the knives off the tables.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.