I asked Shook about the other sharp objects currently allowed on board, specifically the metal knives used for first-class meals. Couldn’t they be used to take over an aircraft? “A butter knife with a dull, serrated, rounded edge in no way compares to a sharpened, pointed knife,” she said.
On its face, the decision to allow knives and sporting equipment on board looks dangerous — even foolish — until you realize that other potentially dangerous objects have been permitted on commercial aircraft for years. Knives such as the ones the TSA will allow next month routinely pass through the security screening process, according to passengers and agency insiders.
Ann Wolfer, who works for the Army and is based in Wilmington, Del., says that she recently left her deployment knife from Iraq, which has a serrated 3½-inch blade, in her carry-on bag by accident. “It made it through airport security at least a dozen different times at four different airports,” she remembers. “I can’t believe it was missed. It had to have been ignored. I’m not saying that this knife should be allowed through security. My point is more that they’ve been looking past this stuff, I believe, for years.”
In dozens of interviews conducted after the TSA’s decision was announced, the most common reaction wasn’t apprehension, but resignation. If nothing else, the agency’s efforts to incorporate what it calls “random and unpredictable” security measures throughout the airport have finally succeeded. Virtually nothing the agency does makes sense anymore, say many passengers.
The agency already exempts large groups of air travelers, including active-duty military, crew members, dignitaries and elite-level frequent fliers, from its regular screening process, allowing them to bypass the dreaded full-body scanners and to leave their shoes on.
So will your next flight be a little more dangerous? Almost certainly not.
It seems that some passengers gave up hope that the screening process would make any sense a long time ago. Now their wishes are a little more modest.
“I dream of the day when I can bring a bottle of wine or a latte through security and onto the flight,” says Scott McMurren, a guidebook publisher based in Anchorage. “That’s no problem for TSA Administrator John Pistole, of course. He flies in his own plane.”
E-mail Christopher Elliott at email@example.com.