Chanting "no knives on planes" and flanked by two members of Congress and at least one pilot, flight attendants from major airlines gathered Monday to protest new Transportation Security Administration rules governing onboard knives.
They came to the upper roadway outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal to pass out leaflets to travelers, asking them to contact their elected representatives to push back again the TSA's recent decision. Effective April 25, screeners will no longer confiscate retractable knives with blades narrower than a half-inch and shorter than about 2.4 inches. TSA officials have said small bombs pose more of a risk to travelers than items like Swiss Army knives. Box cutters will continue to be prohibited, as will knives with longer blades.
For almost a month, flight attendant unions have been seeking to fight the change, saying it will make airplane cabins less safe. On Monday, they gathered outside several airports nationwide to express their displeasure.
"Blades are the reason the TSA was created and blades have no place in the aircraft cabin," said Dante Harris of United Airlines, a Los Angeles-based officer in the Association of Flight Attendants. "The people on the front lines of aviation security know this is a bad idea. It's not only foolish, it's dangerous. "
Executives at major airlines including Delta and US Airways have asked the TSA to reconsider its decision, but so far security officials have stuck to their plans. TSA Administrator John Pistole told a congressional committee last month that searching for small knives takes up an unnecessarily long period of time for screeners.
United pilot Scott Freeman said he joined the flight attendants Monday because one of his friends died on a plane on Sept. 11, 2001.
"That day is vivid in my memory, as it is for everyone here," Freeman said. "That day happened because knives were allowed on airplanes. "
Most travelers politely took the pamphlets, which asked people to sign an online petition for the White House and to contact their congressional representatives to register their support for a bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Michael Grimm, R-N.Y, that would force the TSA to alter its policy.
Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters, whose district includes LAX, and Janice Hahn, who represents much of the South Bay, both joined flight attendants Monday and said they supported the proposed legislation.
"It doesn't make good sense," Waters said. "It's absolutely unthinkable they could come up with this decision. "
Hahn said she agreed. "This is a bad idea," she said. "This is a huge step back in protecting American passengers. "
Freeman, the United pilot, said members of Congress and TSA officials should remember why knives were banned years ago.
"It is our responsibility to never forget what happened on 9/11," Freeman said. "We must remain vigilant. "