Scissors Allowed on Airlines to Cut Hassle

For Kyle Flickinger, airport security in Florida went much more quickly on Thursday.

"It was definitely a lot faster than when I came back in May," said Flickinger, 22, after landing at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport on Thursday.

That's what transportation security officials hoped to hear on the day that new but controversial regulations went into effect. Airport security now won't stop passengers with items that used to hold up lines.

Scissors with blades less than 4 inches long now make the cut. Tools less than 7 inches long are no longer considered dangerous.

"On a typical day, about 25 percent of the items we confiscated were scissors," said Keith Osborn, federal security director for Mid-Continent Airport said Thursday. "Today, we've confiscated zero scissors."

Osborn's boss, head of the Transportation Security Administration, had to justify the rule changes to the U.S. Senate just 10 days earlier, under protest from trade organizations for flight attendants and other aviation professionals.

Those groups fear that terrorists will reprise the tactics used to take over four jets that crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, triggering increased security. Box cutters are still banned, but scissors could prove just as dangerous, they say.

The TSA has said that its security personnel spent too much time looking for scissors and small tools. The agency wants to focus on bombs and other weapons it considers a larger risk than hand tools.

Osborn said more substantive changes -- reinforced cockpit doors, armed pilots and air marshals -- make small tools less of a threat.

Lighters still aren't allowed on board planes, although flyers can take up to four books of paper matches.

Kate O'Hara, 25, saw security take a small pocketknife on a key chain during her flight to Wichita from Wyoming.

"Knives still aren't allowed," Osborn said.

On the plane, O'Hara then saw a woman sitting across the aisle with two large knitting needles. O'Hara probably wouldn't have thought much of it before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but on Thursday it caught her attention.

"I was shocked," O'Hara said.

Knitting needles, however, aren't among the items covered in the new regulations. They've always been allowed on planes -- at the discretion of the screeners.

In place of stopping people for small scissors, security personnel are now instructed to conduct more pat-down searches of individuals.

"I always get searched," O'Hara said. "But things went pretty smoothly today. I didn't have to get patted down. I was lucky."

Between 2,800 and 3,200 people a day are expected to pass through Mid-Continent Airport during the next week of holiday travel.

Wichita Eagle

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