Flight attendants protest TSA changes: 'This cannot stand'

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
By Scott Stump

The vice president of the Association of Flight Attendants called the Transportation Security Administration’s decision to allow small knives back on planes “outrageous” and said it “cannot stand” on TODAY Thursday.

Sara Nelson, who is also a flight attendant for United Airlines, wants the TSA to reconsider its new policy, which will go into effect on April 25. On Tuesday, the TSA announced that pocketknives that don’t lock with blades 2.35 inches or shorter as well as sports equipment like golf clubs, ski poles and hockey and lacrosse sticks will be allowed into aircraft cabins as carry-on baggage.

“This cannot stand,’’ Nelson told Matt Lauer about the announcement that knives would be allowed on board. “This has to change. They’re a deadly weapon, and they’re unnecessary. It is unnecessary to put these on our aircraft. After Sept. 11, the policy changed, and it changed for a reason.’’

The TSA declined to have anyone appear on TODAY but did issue a statement saying, “This change allows transportation security officers to better focus their efforts on finding higher-threat items such as explosives.’’

Nelson argued that simply focusing on explosives that could take down a plane is the wrong approach.

Related: TSA to allow passengers to carry small knives on planes

“We talk about what happened on Sept. 11, but we have unruly passengers every day, we have airplanes that are fuller than ever, we have cut staffing for flight attendants, we don’t have federal air marshals on every flight, and we have people who can act out,’’ she said. “Now you’re putting a weapon in their hand. Situations that we can contain today with the help of passengers that we can direct are now in a much more dangerous position. It’s just unnecessary.’’

Nelson believes the TSA changes could potentially put her and her fellow flight attendants at risk, as well as the passengers on board their flights.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me because I’m a flight attendant who works in a cabin, and my job is to act as a first responder and the last line of defense,’’ she said. “We carry that with us every single day to work, and millions of passengers who fly on our airplanes expect that this is a safe aviation system. They expect to be protected. So it’s not just about protecting the cockpit, it’s not just about making sure that airplane doesn’t come down, it’s about protecting all of the people who are in that cabin.’’

The Air Line Pilots Association has come out in support of the TSA’s change, issuing a statement that read, “ALPA supports TSA efforts to streamline security and shift focus to individuals who intend to do harm. This will standardize TSA policy with the international community. Common sense risk-based security screen initiatives, like known crewmember and pre-check, are the answer to protecting our nation’s air transportation system. These TSA initiatives increase resources for screening so that they focus on the real security threats instead of objects.”

ALPA’s decision to support the TSA changes baffles Nelson, who feels the flight crew should be on the same page.

“That’s incredibly unfortunate because the flight attendants are in the back as the last line of defense, defending that aircraft, and we need the support to make sure that our cabin, our workspace, and the travel space for millions of passengers is safe as well,’’ she said. “This matters to Americans across the country whether you travel or not because you have loved ones who travel, and if there are more of us than there are who made this silly decision to change this policy, we have to take action together.”