WASHINGTON - The head of Delta Air Lines on Friday joined the growing opposition to the Transportation Security Administration's new policy allowing passengers to carry small knives onto planes.
Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole that he shares the "legitimate concerns" of the airline's flight attendants about the new policy.
Allowing small knives to be carried on board after a ban of more than 11 years "will add little value to the customer security process flow in relation to the additional risk for our cabin staff and customers," Anderson said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press.
In this Sept. 26, 2006, file photo, knives of all sizes and types are piled in a box at the State of Georgia Surplus Property Division store in Tucker, Ga., and are just a few of the hundreds of items discarded at the security checkpoints of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that will be for sale at the store. Flight attendants, pilots, federal air marshals and even insurance companies are part of a growing backlash to the Transportation Security Administration’s new policy allowing passengers to carry small knives and sports equipment like souvenir baseball bats and golf clubs onto planes.
"If the purpose is to increase security checkpoint flow, there are much more effective steps we can take together to streamline the security checkpoints with risk-based screening mechanisms," he said.
Delta, based in Atlanta, is the world's second-largest airline. It is the first major airline to join not only flight attendants but pilots, federal air marshals and insurance companies in a burgeoning backlash to the policy. Pistole announced the policy on Tuesday.
TSA spokesman David Castelveter declined to comment on the letter. He said TSA plans to implement the policy on April 25 as scheduled.
Airlines for America, a trade association representing major U.S. airlines, has been supportive of TSA without explicitly endorsing the policy.
"We support the TSA's approach of combining its vast experience with billions of passenger screenings with thorough risk-based assessments," Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the association, said in response to a request Friday for the association's position.
Anderson cited only small knives in his letter. The policy will also allow passengers to include in their carry-on luggage novelty-size baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs. Items like box cutters and razor blades are still prohibited.
Knives permitted under the policy must be able to fold up and have blades that are 2.36 inches or less in length and are less than 1/2-inch wide. The policy is aimed at allowing passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other small knives
There has been a gradual easing of some of the security measures applied to airline passengers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The new policy conforms U.S. security standards to international standards and allows the TSA to concentrate its energies on more serious safety threats, the agency said when it announced the change this week.