WASHINGTON – The Obama administration said Wednesday it was abandoning a plan that would have let passengers carry small knives, souvenir bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes in the U.S.
The decision by the head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, came after fierce opposition by members of Congress, airlines, labour unions and some law enforcement groups. They said that people intent on causing harm could use the knives and other items to injure or kill passengers and crew.
Knives and sports equipment will remain on the list of prohibited items, and shelving the proposal will allow the agency to focus on other priorities, including expanding the Pre-Check program to identify earlier those travellers who don’t present a security risk, Pistole said in an Associated Press interview.
Pistole had presented the proposal to loosen the rules for carry-ons in March, saying the knives and other items couldn’t enable terrorists to cause a plane to crash. He said intercepting the items took time better used searching for explosives and other more serious threats.
Agency screeners each day confiscate more than 2,000 of the small folding knives passengers.
Last month 145 House members signed a letter asking Pistole to retain the policy barring passengers from including the knives and other items from in their carry-on bags.
Flight attendant unions organized protests in Washington and at airports across the country. Airlines for America, which represents major U.S. carriers, and executives from some of the nation’s largest airlines came out against the proposal.
“After getting the input from all these different constituents, I realized there was not across-the-board support that would serve us well in moving forward,” Pistole said.
By withdrawing the proposal, he said agency can focus on programs to identify the greatest security threats.