Things have changed a lot since the tense-air-travel days following 9/11. Not only are cockpit doors locked, but many pilots carry guns, and a cadre of armed air marshals, state troopers and agents from 80 federal agencies routinely hop on random flights. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) thinks it's high time its security measures reflected those changes. So, as the agency confirmed last week, it is re-evaluating its list of prohibited items, a move supported by veteran security experts. Among the things that may get cleared for takeoff by late January: knitting needles and knives with blades less than 2 in. long. Tweezers, by the way, quietly fell off the list a while back, as did cigarette lighters.
What is the TSA worried about these days? Long lines, which annoy travelers and make choice terrorist targets. To speed things up, the agency is taking its Registered Traveler program nationwide in June. Passengers who enroll--pay a fee and get a background check and biometric scans--will be fast-tracked through security. The program, along with fewer prohibited carry-on items, should help the TSA's 45,000 screeners spend less time confiscating cuticle clippers. The hope is that by creating a voluntary database that identifies frequent flyers, the measures will also reduce reliance on racial profiling. Sounds smart, right?
Not to the Association of Flight Attendants, which plans this week to mobilize its 46,000 members for an e-mail campaign aimed at TSA director Kip Hawley. Association spokeswoman Corey Caldwell points out that even mundane objects can be deadly. Then again, screeners not distracted by the hunt for small objects might prove better at detecting less mundane dangers--like explosives.