WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), bowing to a chorus of outrage led by flight attendants, abandoned on Wednesday its plan to allow pocket knives in carry-on baggage.
In a statement, the TSA said it would "continue to enforce the current prohibited items list" that also includes golf clubs, lacrosse sticks, ski poles, billiard cues and some baseball bats.
"We will continue to take steps to improve our ever evolving security posture while also improving the experience of the traveling public," added the federal government agency.
Flight attendants in particular reacted with anger when TSA chief John Pistole proposed in March that pocket knives and some sporting goods should be allowed into airline cabins.
Doing so would enable TSA screeners at airports all over the United States to focus more on explosives. It would also have put the United States in line with European Union rules that allow short-blade knives in cabin baggage.
The Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions cheered Wednesday's decision, recalling how the 9/11 hijackers had used box cutters to commandeer the airliners used to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"We promised 'No Knives on Planes Ever Again' and today that promise was kept," said the coalition, representing five unions and 90,000 flight attendants, in a statement.
"The result is better security policy and the assurance that our nation's aviation security system continues to be vigilant for knives that could be used in a terrorist attack or criminal act against passengers or crew."
The TSA's proposal would have enabled air travellers to take knives with blades no longer than 2.36 inches (six centimeters) onto their flights, rather than leave them in their checked baggage.
The main blade of a folding Swiss army knife ranges from two inches to 5.1 to 6.8cm, according to smartknives.com, a website dedicated to pocket knives.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, representing more than 26,000 police officers and other law enforcement agents, also welcomed the TSA's decision, but appealed for better training for TSA screeners.
"Congress should support this training commitment and allocate the necessary funds to sustain it," it said.
In Europe, "knives with blades of more than six centimeters" - as well as box cutters, axes and swords - figure on a list of prohibited carry-on items on the European Commission's europa.eu website.