“Your Flight Has Been Canceled”

Winter weather and pandemic-related staffing issues are creating a nightmare for travelers.

Thousands of flights have been canceled or delayed – or delayed and then canceled – over the holiday weekend and now into this week.

On Tuesday, more than 1,000 flights across the country were canceled, while thousands more experienced delays. When we checked late Tuesday evening, FlightAware was already showing more than 650 flight cancelations for Wednesday and it’s a good bet that more will be canceled overnight.

We hope you are not caught up in the mess.

“Artfully Concealed” Knives

TSA has some alarming images and statistics about ‘artfully concealed’ and not-so-artfully concealed weapons that people try to bring through airport checkpoints.

Incredibly alarming are the knives discovered on Monday sewn inside a kid’s stuffed animal at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

“The stuffed animal, which appeared to be a black bear in a space-age technology suit and cape, triggered an alarm as it entered the checkpoint X-ray machine,” TSA said in a statement. “The X-ray image indicated something concealed inside the bear and upon closer inspection, TSA officers noticed that the back of the bear showed signs it had been re-stitched.”

When the stitching was removed, two knives were found inside the bear’s stuffing.

The mother of the boy carrying the toy told officials that the bear is a comfort toy for her son. But TSA says the mom will likely face a Federal civil penalty for this violation.

Meanwhile, right before the Christmas holiday, TSA shared that so far this year its officers have found more than 5,700 firearms at security checkpoints. That is a 20-year record.

TSA will delay allowing knives & more back on planes

Thursday, April 25, was the TSA’s target date for allowing knives and some sports equipment, such as hockey sticks, back on airplanes as carry-on items.

But today the TSA announced that it will hold off on that decision for an undetermined amount of time.

Here’s their statement:

“In order to accommodate further input from the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC), which includes representatives from the aviation community, passenger advocates, law enforcement experts, and other stakeholders, TSA will temporarily delay implementation of changes to the Prohibited Items List, originally scheduled to go into effect April 25. This timing will enable TSA to incorporate the ASAC’s feedback about the changes to the Prohibited Items List and continue workforce training.”

TSA sticking to its guns about knives



On Thursday, Transportation Security Administration Chief John Pistole went before lawmakers on Thursday and re-confirmed the agency’s decision to allow some knives and other items on airplanes for the first time since they were banned following the 9/11 terror attacks.

“I think the decision is solid and it stands and we plan to move forward,” Pistole testified before the House Homeland Security Committee, The Associated Press reported. It’s unlikely in these days of hardened cockpit doors and other preventative measures that the small folding knives could be used by terrorists to take over a plane, Pistole said.

On March 5, TSA announced that some knives under two and a half inches and some previously banned sports equipment, including hockey sticks, will be allowed back on airplanes.

TSA says the change to the prohibited items list is “part of an overall risk-based security approach” allowing employees to better focus on “finding higher threat items such as explosives.”

But groups representing airline industry workers, including many flight attendants, pilots, TSA officers and federal air marshals, have come out against what they characterizes as a dangerous and “ill-advised” move.

This will “put law enforcement officers and the flying public at greater risk,” said Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Several members of the House committee share those concerns and urged Pistole to reconsider his position, AP reported.

The Teamsters, as well as the United Steelworkers and some passengers rights groups have also stated their opposition to the new TSA rules and executives at American Airlines, US Airways and Delta Air Lines have written letters directly to the TSA chief.

“We object to the agency decision to allow small knives back in the airplane cabin,” Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive officer, wrote in a letter dated March 8th. In a letter dated March 12, American Airlines senior vice president William Ris encouraged TSA “to reassess its proposed revisions to the prohibited items list.”

Southwest Airlines “is engaged with TSA in discussions,” said spokesman Chris Mainz. United has also expressed concerns to the TSA about the policy, but on Thursday a spokesperson declined to offer specifics.

The airline trade group Airlines for America was originally in support of TSA’s approach to “combining its vast experience with billions of passenger screenings with thorough risk-based assessments,” but it has softened its stance.

“We believe additional discussion is warranted before items that have been banned for more than 11 years are allowed back on aircraft,” said A4A spokeswoman Katie Connell.

A petition asking the White House to stop the TSA changes now has over 30,000 signatures. Earlier this week, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation with Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) aimed at blocking the changes as well.

(My story about pushback to the TSA plan to allow knives back on airplanes first appeared on NBC

More on TSA’s move to allow small knives, sports sticks on airplanes

TSA_Permitted Items one

Not everyone is happy about the TSA’s decision to take small knives and sports equipment – including golf clubs (2 per person), pool cues, lacrosse sticks, hockey sticks, ski poles – and small novelty/souvenir bats off the list of items that passengers are prohibited to take on planes as part of their allowable carry-on items.

The new rules go into effect on April 25, but many flight attendants and their unions aren’t happy. The Flight Attendants Union Coalition released a statement blasting the TSA’s decision. and Ian Funderburg, who identifies himself as a flight attendant, has started an on-line petition asking the President of the United States to reverse the TSA’s Decision.

A TSA spokesperson told me on Wednesday that the agency worked closely with airlines on this latest revision of the prohibited items list and that airlines were comfortable with the action.

I was also reminded that while the TSA has said it’s OK for hockey sticks and other sports equipment to go through the security checkpoint and taken onto planes, that doesn’t mean that an airline must allow that stick or that equipment onto the plane. If an item is deemed too big for the overhead bin, or if the item exceeds the number of carry-on items a passengers is allowed, an airline still has the right to ask a passenger to check an item that will not fit an overhead bin.

And if passengers are asked to check – and pay baggage fees for – sports equipment that TSA says is allowable past the security checkpoint, you can bet there are going to be dust ups and debate.

I had the pleasure of talking about this topic on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered on Wednesday evening. You can hear that four minute story here.




TSA: OK to fly with small knives, golf clubs, other items.

Zurich chocolate knife

For the first time since the 9/11 terror attacks, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will allow small knives and some previously prohibited sports equipment onto airplanes as carry-on items.

TSA_Permitted Items one

According to the TSA, passengers will be able to carry-on knives that are less than 2.36 inches long and less than one-half inch wide. Larger knives, and those with locking blades, will continue to be prohibited, as will razor blades and box cutters, guns, firearms, and the dozens of other things listed on the published list of prohibited items.


TSA will also soon permit sports equipment such as billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks up to two golf clubs to be carried onto airplanes. Souvenir, novelty and toy baseball bats — such as wiffle-ball bats — will also be allowed.

The relaxed rules take effect April 25.

TSA_Sports items Permitted

TSA_BATS Permitted

TSA said the new regulations will allow its officers to better focus efforts on finding “higher threat items such as explosives,” and was made as part of the agency’s overall risk-based security approach.

But the Flight Attendants Union Coalition issued a statement saying they are unhappy with this move, calling it a “poor and shortsighted decision” by the TSA.

“As the last line of defense in the cabin and key aviation partners, we believe that these proposed changes will further endanger the lives of all Flight Attendants and the passengers we work so hard to keep safe and secure,” the statement said.

TSA believes the items it will now allow in airline cabins are “unlikely to result in catastrophic destruction of an aircraft,” and that policies already put in place — hardened cockpit doors, federal air marshals, crewmembers with self-defense training — reduce the likelihood of passengers breaching the cockpit.

“All TSA is doing is catching up with the rest of the world,” said Douglas R. Laird, president of aviation consulting firm Laird & Associates and former head of security for Northwest Airlines. After 9/11 the TSA “overreacted,” said Laird, and put restrictions in place “in the heat of the moment” that exceeded those in other countries.

Removing small knives and some sports equipment from the list prohibited items “will help align TSA’s list with international standards and help decrease the time spent rescreening or searching bags for these once prohibited items,” said TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez. The changes also enable officers to focus on “the greatest threats … which increase security for passengers and improves efficiency, improving the checkpoint screening experience.”

(Images courtesy TSA)

(A slightly different version of my story about the TSA’s decision to take small knives and sports equipment off the prohibited items list is on NBC