U.S. approves flying hockey sticks (and small knives)
Okay, Canadians, fair warning: Do not freak out if the next thing you see on your upcoming U.S. flight is someone with a hockey stick, a golf club or (gasp) a small knife.
Those items have all been added to the no-worries list, effective April 25, according to new carry-on rules announced today by U.S. Transport Security Administration chief John Pistole at a travel security conference in New York City.
The easing of the rules represents the first time since the attacks of 9/11 that U.S. air travellers will be able to board planes with such accessories, including Swiss Army-style knives with blades up to 6 centimetres (2.36 inches).
While the TSA will maintain its carry-on ban on razor blades and box cutters of the sort used by the 2001 hijackers, today's changes represent a concerted effort by U.S. authorities to align their rules with less-stringent European Union regulations.
The stateside pushback was immediate, with one of the country's largest air worker unions calling the decision "a threat to passengers and an affront to flight attendants.
"While we agree that a passenger wielding a small knife or swinging a golf club or a hockey stick poses less of a risk to the pilot locked in the cockpit, these are real threats to passengers and flight attendents in the passenger cabin," Transport Workers Union Local 556, representing 10,000 Southwest Airlines flight attendents, said in a statement.
Speaking separately at the same air travel summit, Marjeta Jager, director of security policy with the European Commission, also signalled plans to do away with restrictions on carry-on liquids.
"The restrictions on liquids must go," said Jager. "It was a measure we took in 2006 as a temporary solution and it has taken too long to apply technologies to lift this restriction."
And where is Canada in all of these changes? Nowhere, quite yet. Or at least Transport Canada is not yet ready to say whether hockey sticks and the like are about to be coming to a pressurized compartment near you.
"No changes are being made to Canada's prohibited items list at this time," Transport Canada spokesman Kelly James wrote in an email to the Star.
"However, Transport Canada continues to review options to improve aviation security and to harmonize with other countries where possible."
Mitch Potter is the Toronto Star's Washington Bureau Chief, his third foreign posting after previous assignments to London and Jerusalem. Potter led the Toronto Star’s coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he won a 2006 National Newspaper Award for his reportage. His dispatches include datelines from 33 countries since 2000. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites