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Update: TSA delays policy to allow small pocketknives in flight

Update | April 23, 2013: The TSA announced yesterday that it was postponing the rule allowing small knives on planes. There was no new date announced for the policy change, so stay tuned. The original post is below …


Effective next month, your Scouts and others traveling by plane will be permitted to carry on small pocketknives.

The Transportation Security Administration said on Tuesday it was relaxing certain restrictions to allow small pocketknives, golf clubs, and other sports items to be carried on to planes, better matching international standards for air travel.

The changes take effect on April 25, 2013, meaning Scouts and Venturers flying to the jamboree, a high-adventure base, or anywhere else this summer may have one less thing to worry about at the airport.

Be careful — not all pocketknives are allowed as carry-ons. A knife is only allowed if: 

  • The blade is no longer than 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) in length 
  • The blade width is no more than 0.5 inches at its widest point
  • The knife does not have a locking or fixed blade
  • The knife does not have a molded grip

That means knives that are too wide or too long or those with locking blades or a molded grip should remain in a Scout or Scouter’s checked bag — or stay at home.

A blade that’s 2.36 inches long or shorter is a pretty small knife, so primarily we’re talking small multitools like the Leatherman Micra I keep in my pocket at Scouting events. Small, Swiss Army knives might fit the requirements, but I’d break out your ruler to be sure.

And a note for all those packs, troops, or crews headed to far-off ski destinations: The TSA also announced on Tuesday that ski poles can now be carried on.

Here are the TSA’s explanatory graphics:

tsa-pocketknives-1 tsa-pocketknives-2 tsa-pocketknives-3 tsa-pocketknives-4

28 Comments on Update: TSA delays policy to allow small pocketknives in flight

  1. Henry Ruempler // March 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm // Reply

    I measured the standard BSA pocket knife – It is too wide.

    • Thanks, Henry, good to know.

  2. Measuring, debating, arguing about how close it is or not will surely “speed” up the process. *ha* And once they say no, you just lost your knife.

    And no word on the rule for gold clubs? “Sorry sir, but that driver is too wide. You’ll have to donate it to the TSA.”

    • You do not lose your knife. You are given opportunity to mail it to yourself. I accidentally had a pocket in my purse and they told me that I could give it up or step out and mail it to myself. I had to buy a whole book of stamps, but they gave me the enelope.

      • Cheryl At most Airlines there is not enough time to go out and mail a Knife. Most carryons are scanned when you are checking in and If you chose to mail it the Airlines for a fee in the case of my Scout it was $25.00 to mail the knife to his residence. Otherwise they will take it and dispose of it themselves. Please don’t state that a person will not have the knife taken away I was Scoutmaster at a Airport in 2010 and witnessed the Scout losing his knife. My advice is to place a knife in a checked baggage and save time, trouble and money. Sincerely, Trenton

        • What I am taking away from this; How do we get access to TSA auctions? My scouters can use some knives. Also, knives have no place on a plane, pack them in checked luggage. Most of the time, you get your checked luggage back. Lol

  3. Rick St. John // March 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm // Reply

    Save us some headaches and just list those Scout knife models that wills with pass the TSA rules.

  4. If flying to Jambo I would not tell the Scouts this. Have them leave the knife in the checked luggage, but have the leader cary this in case a Scout forgets and the knife fits the guidelines.

    One time I had left my Swiss Army knife in my book bag after a BALOO training. The TSA had me walk back out of the secure area, then gave me the knive back to take to the ticket desk. They gave me a small box to pack the knife in, which was then checked. When I got to KC I went to baggage claim to pick up my suitcase and the box containing my knife.

    Cary a small box and tape that can be put together for last minute items caught and security then take back to the counter to check :)

  5. Michael Scott // March 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm // Reply

    As a former Scout and parent and Den Leader of a Cub Scout, I object to the “locking blade” restriction. Nearly every pocket knife on the market has a locking blade. WEBELOS’ need the locking blade as they learn to use a knife. Buying less-safe knives to appease the TSA is silly and creates potential risk. Obviously this is just my opinion and others will likely disagree, but I feel much safer introducing my Cub Scout and his Den to knives with the extra safety measure of a locking blade.

    • I understand your concerns, but I don’t imagine you or your Cub Scout will be flying to Jambo, right?

      • Michael Scott // March 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm // Reply

        Is it only for Boy Scouts? I wasn’t sure. I thought a cousin of mine sent her two boys (1st and 2nd year WEBELOS) to the 2012 Jamboree. However it wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong!

        • Different event. Last National Scout Jamboree was 2010. Must have been a local camporee.

        • The Boy Scout has to be First Class Scout to be elligible to participate in The National Jamboree. Trenton

        • paracordsurvivalbraceletsidaho@gmail.com // April 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm //

          Yes, Jambo is only for Boy Scouts and Venturer Scouts etc. But Good News!! Your sons will be able to attend the next jambo. Btw, I am going to this one!!!

      • This rule is for ALL persons, Grandma to baby Kate. When my CUBSCOUTS…fly to Summer camps, all knives are packed in “checked” luggage(including mine), or they don’t go. The policy has nothing to do with Scouting at all. This article mentions “Jambo”, as an example.

  6. Chuck Chatlynne // March 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm // Reply

    Concur with Michael Scott
    I always recommend the Wenger Swiss Army knife because the blade locks–safety! Guess it goes in checked luggage.

  7. Steve Toole // March 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm // Reply

    Michael, just pack the locking blade with your luggage and you’re good to go. Personally I’m not sure why TSA loosened the knife restriction at all, and I agree with mikemenn above, having size restrictions about what’s allowed and what isn’t, will only slow security lines and invite already irritated travellers to become even more edgy. I got my toothpaste confiscated last year because it was a full sized tube. I can see how a locking blade would be more dangerous than a folding blade if used in an inappropriate way, so I can live with that if it means we’re all safer in the air.

    • Michael Scott // March 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm // Reply

      Well if you want to make it easy… I suppose that would work! Just kidding, I tend to look at tiny issues and see huge problems. Thankfully my wife is the Assistant Den Leader, and can keep me grounded. ;)

    • Gary Wilson // April 23, 2013 at 10:57 am // Reply

      How does that help me when I’m traveling on a business trip without any checked luggage? As a Boy Scout, I was taught to always have a small pocket knife, handkerchief and lighter on my person at all time to “Be Prepared”.

      A small Swiss Army knife does not present any hazard to flight and is in accordance with ICAO regulations for allowable objects in most other countries.

      • No offence Mr. Wilson, but “a small Swiss Army knife does not present any hazard”…maybe you heard of 9/11, what was it…box cutters?

  8. When flying to and from the National Jamboree in 2010 I Instructed my 36 Scouts to check before the flight their carryons and make sure there were no knives in the carryon as they would have it taken by the Airline personal and the Scout would have a choice to pay $25.00 for mailing the knife back to their residents or the Airline would just take the knife. There was two incidents that happened at check in one of them the Scout paid the Airline $25.00 to send it home. The other incident going home one of the Scouts did not have the funds to send the knife home the Scout asked me would I pay for the knife to be sent home. I reminded the Scout as Scoutmaster I had advised the Scouts that prior to check in to please check thier carryons and make sure there was not anything that was in violation of Airline policies especially knives. I had done this at every pre-flight meeting. As result the Scout lost his knife because I felt that he should have been more responsible. The new TSA knife policies are to vague and I would advise the Scout to leave their knifes in their checked bag to avoid the loss of the knife or having to pay to have it mailed home. Sincerely, Trenton

    • Steve Toole // March 6, 2013 at 4:17 pm // Reply

      Great example, Trenton. This should be no different with the new policy. You never know with TSA, and that’s the point. If you bring it with you through security, you risk losing it or paying the shipment. A few years ago I was traveling with 2 other business associates to a trade show. At the show, each of us received a golf putter set, with a putter that unscrewed into 3 sections, and came with a nice wooden “cup”, all in a nice leather case. We went through security together, each of us with the putter set in our carry ons. The other two went first, or in a different line, and I went last. My bag got stopped and the putter was forfeited to TSA (because it was considered a blunt object), even though the other two got through right ahead of me. I was in a hurry to catch plane, so into the garbage the putter went. It was gift so no real loss, but the point is, why risk it if you don’t have to?

  9. Andrew Corl // March 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm // Reply

    Here is the question: Do you need your knife while travelling by air? If not, just make life easier and put the kinfe in your checked bag. I am going to Philmont this summer and plan on just packing my knife in my checked pack.

  10. I think all they are doing is acknowleging that some knifes have no use as a weapon. Fair enough.

  11. This rule is not about pocket knives folks, it is about the nail clipper with a blade and, as you can see from the “allowed” photo, cork screws. Please don’t try to apply logic to these decisions, just look up some of the other items TSA will allow.

  12. David Richardson (Obiwan) // March 8, 2013 at 9:43 am // Reply

    Here in Australia, if you’re catching a flight, your checked luggage has already been handed in, you approach the security checkpoint, walk thru the scanner and beeeeeeeeeeep. If its on the CASA no flight list, you have lost it. So bad so sorry.

  13. Gary Wilson // April 23, 2013 at 10:51 am // Reply

    The whole prohibition against pocket knives on US planes is stupid post 9/11 with the now locked in flight armored doors on the cockpits. One can’t get into a cockpit with a knife that small.

    The proposed TSA rule (6 CM by 1 CM blade, which is roughly a Swiss Army Knife) simply moves the US to be aligned with the worldwide ICAO standard for allowable knives. Much of the rest of the world has used this for years without any problem.

  14. Gary Wilson // April 23, 2013 at 11:14 am // Reply

    BTW, you’ll never see locking knives allowed anywhere as the ICAO standard prohibits them as a weapon, but, as I stated, non-locking knifes of Swiss Army size (6 CM by 1 CM blade) are fine on board commercial aircraft in Europe and most other parts of the world:

    http://www.icao.int/safety/DangerousGoods/Working%20Group%20of%20the%20Whole/WP.50.AppA1.pdf

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