U.S. to keep restriction on small knives on planes for now

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. government will temporarily delay a controversial rule that would again permit passengers to carry small knives on commercial flights three days before it was due to take effect.

The Transportation Security Administration said in a statement on Monday it would consider additional input from a federal advisory committee that includes aviation-related interests, passenger advocates, and law enforcement experts before activating the new regulation.

Airline passengers had been cleared to carry knives with small blades, including some pocket knives, beginning on Thursday. The TSA did not give a new date for the policy to take effect.

Small knives were banned along with a host of other undersized sharp objects, like nail clippers, screwdrivers and cosmetic scissors, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Al Qaeda hijackers were believed to have used box cutters to gain control of four jetliners.

There has been a gradual easing of those prohibitions in recent years as planes hardened onboard security and the potential threats shifted from hijackings to attempts by terrorists to bring down planes with bombs.

Knives are probably the most common items surrendered by passengers at screening points, aside from liquids. About 35 knives are seen at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on an average day and about 47 per day at Los Angeles International Airport, officials said recently.

Under the plan, knives with blades that are 2.36 inches or shorter and less than a half-inch wide will be allowed in airline cabins so long as the blade is not fixed or does not lock into place.

TSA Administrator John Pistole had previously told a House Homeland Security subcommittee that his decision on permitting small knives would stand. He said it would improve screening efficiency and allow security to focus on items that pose more serious threats to aviation.

But Pistole has been under pressure from congressional lawmakers, flight crews and others concerned the change dangerously relaxed aviation security and sent the wrong message to a flying public eager for more simplicity and efficiency in passenger and bag screening.

Some of the nation's biggest carriers have also opposed the policy.

The TSA statement on Monday said the delay would enable security planners to weigh new feedback and continue workforce training.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said the temporary move is a "solid, commonsense step" toward maintaining safe skies.

"This delay acknowledges that permitting knives on planes is a bad idea; now the TSA should go the rest of the way and end this flawed policy all together," the New York Democrat said in a statement.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, also approved of the delay.

"Now TSA can go through the established process, seek input from stakeholders and consult with the (Transportation Security Officer) workforce -- so we can have a sensible security policy with stakeholder buy-in," the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee said in a statement.

CNN's Mike M. Ahlers contributed to this report