Delta joins pilots, flight attendants, others opposed to allowing knives on planes

Delta Air Lines, the world’s second-largest air carrier, has joined in opposition to new federal regulations that will allow passengers to bring small knives on planes.

Delta chief executive Richard Anderson said Friday he shares the “legitimate concerns” of flight attendants and others about the changes. He said the changes will do little to improve checkpoint delays and other customer-service issues, compared to the “additional risk” for cabin staff and passengers.

Anderson made his case in a letter to Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole, who announced the changes Tuesday.

“There are much more effective steps we can take together to streamline the security checkpoints with risk-based screening mechanisms," Anderson said in the letter, obtained by the Associated Press.

The changes -- which also allow passengers to carry on miniature baseball bats, lacrosse and hockey sticks, ski poles, plastic bats and two golf clubs -- were immediately denounced by a chapter of the Southwest Airlines' Flight Attendants Union.

"While we agree that a passenger wielding a small knife or swinging a golf club or hockey stick poses less of a threat to the pilot locked in the cockpit, these are real threats to passengers and flight attendants in the passenger cabin," said TWU Local 556 President Stacy K. Martin.

The changes are schedule to go into effect April 25 but will not include permission to bring on board razors or box cutters, like those used by the 9-11 hijackers.

Permitted knives must be able to fold up and have blades no longer than 2.36 inches and no wider than 1/2 inch. The policy is aimed at allowing passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other small knives.

Also on Friday, Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, told Fox News his group opposes the changes.

“So TSA thinks allowing something like this somehow doesn’t pose a risk?” he asked. “Is there view that Americans in the cabin are expendable, disposable? … That’s nonsense.”

Delta becomes the first major airline to join the flight attendants, pilots, federal air marshals and insurance companies in opposition to the policy changes.

TSA spokesman David Castelveter declined to comment on the letter.

But the agency has said gun-carrying pilots traveling as passengers, federal air marshals and airline crew members trained in self-defense now provide additional layers of security to protect against misuse of the newly allowed items.

Airlines for America, a trade association representing major U.S. airlines, has been supportive of TSA without explicitly endorsing the policy.

But the Flight Attendants Union Coalition, representing nearly 90,000 flight attendants, said Thursday it is coordinating a nationwide legislative and public education campaign to reverse the policy.

The Coalition of Airline Pilot Associations said it opposes allowing knives of any kind in airliner cabins.

The Associate Press contributed to this report.