Review of Banned Items on Commercial Airplanes

Knitting needles are fine, but ice picks are banned.

Corkscrews are allowed, but pointed metal scissors are deemed dangerous.

Matches are OK. But as of mid-April, it's lights out for lighters.

Since the 9/11 attacks, many travelers have been mystified by some of the changing rules at airport security checkpoints.

The ban on lighters is the latest change in airport security measures, which have already been revamped and refined several times since 9/11.

Immediately after the terrorist attacks, security screeners added dozens of items to the list of what passengers were forbidden to bring aboard a plane. The most commonly seized items were nail clippers and nail files, but other products were added, too, such as baseball bats, knitting needles, cigar cutters and golf clubs.

At the end of 2002, though, the Transportation Security Administration relaxed some of the rules. Nail clippers and nail files are now OK, as are knitting needles and cigar cutters. Those changes came about as improvements in air security took hold, such as the addition of air marshals and fortified cockpit doors.

The list of banned items still is longer than it was before 9/11, though. For instance, pocket knives used to be acceptable if the blades were less than 4 inches -- such as the kind you'd find on a Swiss Army knife. Now, all sharp knives are prohibited.

Now comes the ban on lighters, which are also forbidden in checked bags.

The TSA says it is starting to enforce the ban now because of a new law passed last year. Banning lighters removes a possible ignition source on a plane. Previously, the ban applied only to "torch" lighters -- those that created intense heat and big flames. TSA officials say they're still looking at whether to ban matches.

But some smokers say the new ban makes no sense. They're quick to point out that Richard Reid, the man convicted of trying to light a shoe bomb aboard a trans-Atlantic flight to Miami in December 2001, used a match, not a lighter.

Companies that make lighters have protested. Zippo Manufacturing Co. says it could lose between 20 percent and 30 percent of its sales because of the ban. The company said it understands the ban on lighters on board a plane but says there is no proof they pose a risk in checked luggage.

For the full list, go to

    Banned Items:
  • Baseball bats
  • Bleach
  • Fireworks
  • Golf clubs
  • Ice picks
  • Knives (any length, except round-bladed or butter knives)
  • Lighters
  • Mace/pepper spray
  • Saws
  • Scissors, metal with pointed tip
  • Screwdrivers
  • Ski poles
  • Starter pistols
  • Tools
  • Weapons
    Permitted Items:
  • Cigar cutters
  • Corkscrews
  • Eyeglass repair tools
  • Matches (up to four packs, and not strike-anywhere matches)
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail files
  • Safety razors
  • Scissors, blunt-tipped
  • Toy weapons (if not realistic-looking)
  • Tweezers
  • Umbrellas