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What Kind of Knife Does TSA Allow on Planes

Soon, you will be able to stow knives in your carry on luggage.  There are important regulations on what kind of cutting tool you can carry with you.  I don't believe that medieval hunting knives, like the trousse pictured here, are allowed.

Soon, you will be able to stow knives in your carry on luggage. There are important regulations on what kind of cutting tool you can carry with you. I don't believe that medieval hunting knives, like the trousse pictured here, are allowed.

When Does the Rule Take Effect?

Though TSA originally planned for knife carry to begin on April 25, 2013, that date has been pushed back. TSA spoke of the delay in saying, "This timing will enable TSA to incorporate the feedback about the changes to the Prohibited Items List and continue workforce training."

After caving to the pressure from public outcry, well at least the ones who cry the loudest, the TSA has scrapped the idea of carrying a knife on a plane like the rest of the world.

Can I Carry a Knife on a Plane?

As someone who has carried a knife for most of their life, I feel naked when I board a plane. It is a feeling of nudity not only because the TSA agent manning the body scanner knows what I look like in my birthday suit, but because a knife is a daily companion in my pocket. Without it, I am incomplete, for being prepared is part of who I am.

Though knife carry was previously regulated, after September 11th all knives were banned from carry-on luggage on all airplanes. This prohibition was not without warrant, given that the despicable hijackers used simple box cutters to cause the tragedy on that day.

Since the United States felt the bite of terror, many things changed. Locked doors were added to airplane cockpits and long security check points became the norm. The myriad of banned items stretched from hockey sticks to shampoo. We did what we had to, but now nearly twelve years later, things have changed.

Faced with the reality of limited manpower and a desire to expedite the security process,TSA management looked at modifying carry-on item regulations. Deciding to concentrate on threats, like explosives that could bring down a plane, in early 2013 the administration announced its plans to modify its "Prohibited Items List" (PIL). Besides some previously banned sporting equipment like golf clubs, small knives would be allowed back into the airplane cabin.

Though for many knife users, the skies are a little friendlier, there has been significant push back amongst airline employees, law enforcement and concerned citizens. This debate has caused delay in implementing a modification in the PIL as TSA officials consider more options for training. Originally the change was to take place on April 25th, 2013; however, TSA's release date has been modified to "changes effective in the near future."

Check back on this page for when these regulations go into effect.

UPDATE JUNE 25, 2013

With increased pressure from the flight attendant union, politicians and citizens, the TSA decided not to change the PIL after all. It doesn't look like we'll be able to carry knives on planes for the foreseeable future.

Can You Carry this Knife on a Plane?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. SOG Tsunami
    • Yes
    • No
  2. Leatherman Style CS
    • Yes
    • No
  3. Wenger Esquire
    • Yes
    • No
  4. Emerson Mini Roadhouse
    • Yes
    • No
  5. Gerber DMF Folder, Tanto
    • Yes
    • No
  6. Victorinox Swiss Army Rescue Tool
    • Yes
    • No
  7. Buck 305 Lancer
    • Yes
    • No

Answer Key

  1. No
  2. Yes
  3. Yes
  4. No
  5. No
  6. No
  7. Yes

Characteristics of Approved Knives

According to TSA's "Changes to Prohibited Items List" (March 2013), knives in carry-on luggage must have the following characteristics.

  • Must be folding.
  • Knife must be non-locking.
  • Blade length must be no longer than 2.36 inches (6 centimeters).
  • Blade width must be no wider than one half inch at its widest point.
  • Non-molded grip.
  • Razor blades and box cutters are not allowed.
Locking knives are prohibited by TSA on planes.

Locking knives are prohibited by TSA on planes.

Bladeless Pocket Tools

Why Do You Need to Carry a Knife on a Plane?

Read through forums on the issue and people ask, "why do you need to carry a knife on a plane in the first place?" Let us examine the many uses of a small pocket knife in daily use:

  • Opening letters and boxes
  • Cutting security tags and zip ties
  • Removing slivers and stingers
  • Shortening rope and string
  • First aid and minor surgery
  • Sharpening pencils
  • Facilitating emergency release from seat belts
  • Cutting stubborn pieces of broccoli
  • Opening packages
  • Swiss Army-style knives with can openers, scissors and screwdrivers have a myriad of uses.
  • Just in case you find yourself in an unlikely Cast Away situation, a knife is a valuable survival tool (much better than an ice skate.)
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Outdoor addicts that hit the trails where ever they travel know the necessity of carrying a knife. Those of you who have read my work on The Ten Essentials, know that I don't venture outdoors without a trusty blade. For flyers without checked bags, or for those not relying on the efficiency of the baggage handling system, a knife in carry-on is essential.

Efficient travelers who fly without checked baggage (and hopefully without unmanageable carry-on luggage that they can't shlep down the aisle) haven't had the ability to carry such a simple and useful tool as the knife. As one of these travelers myself, I'd duck into a hardware store once I reached my destination and buy an inexpensive utility knife. After visiting the area for a few days, I'd have to ditch this knife before reaching the metal detectors at airport security.

I guess you could just keep the knife in the vast underbelly of the plane in checked baggage and get it out once you arrived. It isn't like the airport has ever lost anyone's luggage before.

After new regulations take effect, the third (Victorinox Classic) and fifth (Buck 309) knife would be allowed within the cabin of a plane.

After new regulations take effect, the third (Victorinox Classic) and fifth (Buck 309) knife would be allowed within the cabin of a plane.

Tips on Carrying a Knife on a Plane

  1. If the knife is or looks "tactical," with blackened blades and a swing hilt for example, leave it at home.
  2. Never travel with an heirloom or expensive knife. You never know how a TSA agent will interpret the law.
  3. Even though they may not have traditional locks, the blades on many Leatherman-type tools can be locked open while the handle is closed. You may want to leave it at home.
  4. If you have doubts whether the knife is allowed, don't bring it at all or pack it in your checked baggage.
  5. Leave the knife in your pocket or carry-on luggage; avoid using it on the plane as it may make some people nervous.
A few knives that would be allowed on planes.

A few knives that would be allowed on planes.

The Victorinox Classic and Wenger Esquire are perfect knives to carry with you onto the plane.

The Victorinox Classic and Wenger Esquire are perfect knives to carry with you onto the plane.

What Would Be a Good Knife to Carry on a Plane?

Looking at the knife market today, you'll find countless variations of man's oldest tool. As one peruses the online catalogs of dozens of makers, you may find yourself overwhelmed at the variety. So what is a good knife for an airline traveler to carry?

  • First, make sure that the knife fits all of TSA's criteria - this easily eliminates 75% of the knife market.
  • Second, look through the tips listed above for advice on what types of knives not to carry.
  • Third, consider your own needs and how the knife will met them.

If you are looking for a TSA compliant knife with lots of tools, consider carrying a Swiss Army Knife. Just be sure that the blade length is under six centimeters and does not lock.

For example, the one-handed series from Victorinox Swiss Army would be prohibited, given it's blade that is too long and too wide, molded handles, and locking mechanism.

An excellent choice would be a Victorinox Swiss Army Classic-series knife. At less than one ounce, this lightweight knife has been in backpackers' arsenals for years. Besides a quality blade, this handy tool boasts the following items: nail file, screwdriver, scissors, toothpick, tweezers, and keyring.

The traditional pocket knife, kind of like your grandfather carried, is another excellent option for carry while flying. Modern traditional knives mimic the simple styling and utilitarian nature of their predecessors; however, modern steel and precision craftsmanship make these knives better than ever. Within the traditional market look at popular brands like Case, Buck and CRKT for quality knives.

Here are a few models you may wish to consider:

  • Case Peanut
  • Buck Solo
  • Shrade Old Timer Minute Man
  • CRKT Classic Congress

The Leatherman Stylus CS is a great TSA compliant knife.

The Leatherman Stylus CS is a great TSA compliant knife.

How to use the bottle opener on the Leatherman Stylus CS.

How to use the bottle opener on the Leatherman Stylus CS.

Outside accessible tools make the Stylus handier than some other small multitools.

Outside accessible tools make the Stylus handier than some other small multitools.

My Favorite TSA Compliant Knife

Going through my knife collection, I found a couple dozen knives which meet TSA's standard for carry in an aircraft cabin. Which one is my favorite? For now, I'll give that honor to the Leatherman Style CS mini-multitool.

The Style CS is the close relative of the bladeless Style PS, which was designed specifically for air travel. The PS lacks a blade, but does add spring-action needlenose pliers with wire cutters.

So what tools does the Style CS have?

  • 1.6-inch 420HC knife blade
  • Spring-action sissors
  • Phillips/ flathead screwdriver
  • Nail file
  • Carabiner/bottle opener
  • Tweezers

At only 1.4 ounces, this tool boasts quite a few features at under 3-inches long. This multiple uses of this tool are why it ended up in my favorites list. I like handy things, and the Style is very handy.

One feature that is great, is that the knife blade and screwdriver are accessible while the tool is closed. This is unlike the popular Leatherman Micra, which must be opened to expose any of the tools. (As a side note, the Micra's blade stays in an open position when you close the handles; therefore, I don't believe that it is TSA compliant.)

Another great feature is the carabiner which also makes a great bottle opener. The biner makes it easy to attach the knife to a set of keys for inconspicuous carry. Plus, if you are a hiker, the little clip makes it easy to find your tool in a pinch.

Yet another great aspect to this tool, is that it costs under twenty dollars. Yes, you get a quality knife with a twenty-five year warranty for a mere mini portrait of Jefferson and you'll still have enough for a cup of coffee left over. Just not a cup of coffee at the airport, that will run you at least six bucks.

Source Material

All information regarding the new permitted items rule was gathered from the Transportation Security Administration's document, "Changes to Prohibited Item List (PIL)" dated March 2013.

Since the decision was reversed to not allow knives on planes, this document has been taken off line.

How Do You Feel About Knives Being Allowed on Planes?

Since the TSA has announced this change in their prohibited items list, numerous opponents have roared in disapproval. So, what do you think? Leave your opinion in the comment box below, just be respectful of everyone else's opinion.


JR Krishna from India on July 01, 2015:

Very useful information. I used to put knife in luggage but not in hand baggage.


Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on July 09, 2014:

This reminds of when the TSA explained to my 65-year old Lutheran-school-teacher Godmother that she couldn't carry pepper spray on an airplane. It was in her purse and she simply forgot it was even there. For many of us, you included, having a knife handy is simply a part of everyday life. When I place a knife in my pocket every morning, it isn't because I fear for my life or have hostile intentions, it is just because that is how I was raised and what I do.

I am glad though that they allowed your husband to hold onto your Leatherman though, it is better than losing it to a garbage can or a box that stays in storage for the next twenty-years.

Thanks for reading and commenting RockyMountainMom!

RockyMountainMom from Montana on June 21, 2014:

Thanks for this article! I flew frequently with my mini leatherman in my purse or carry on. Usually not intentionally. It was just habit to have it on me and I thought they were seeing it in screening and allowing it. But last fall, it was confiscated and I was informed that it had just been missed for the past couple of years (though they strongly implied I was wrong and had not flown with it previously). They said the media covered well that small blades were now allowed, but didn't cover it at all when the proposed changes were pushed back.

Regardless of whether or not they were right about it's allowability, the outcome amused me (and is the drawn out reason for my comment).

They didn't have much sympathy at all initially. Eventually I stated semi-jokingly that it was a bit sad and ironic that not only did the government furlough me, but they were taking away my government employee safety award. I think this struck a chord with the non-furlough government employees telling me I wouldn't be able to get back the knife. Since I got a hold of my husband (also a part time airport employee) they were willing to hand the knife out to him and let me catch my stand by flight rather than having to exit and restart the security process. It was an amusing start to my furlough. In Montana I'm less unique than a lot of places for habitually carrying an extra little knife in my purse.

Will on October 26, 2013:

I suppose its not a pc response but I feel another reason for carrying a knife on a plane or anywhere is personal defense. I understand a 6cm knife doesn't make the best pdw , but just in case something is better than nothing. I'm a proponent of concealed carry of many forms. But I have to say on this topic if the crew is against it I would reluctantly honor their wishes.It seems after 9/11 anyone acting up on a flight gets dogpiled so fast it wouldn't matter what they had. I'm not advocating paronioa but I pray we never forget and let complacency take hold again.

Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on April 26, 2013:

Many of us knife nuts have been glued to the news since this proposition was released MsDora. The research was indeed fun to do and I hope people find it useful.

Thanks for stopping by!

Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on April 26, 2013:

I've pretty much always carried a knife with me since about the age of seven. Heck, I had a finely honed spyderco in my pocket when I got married. As you said summerberrie, the knife can by an extension of the self. Somehow, a call to our primal ways and somehow reassuring.

Thanks for the comment!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 26, 2013:

Thanks for doing such a thorough job on the research and the presentation. Just as I began to wonder "Why Do You Need to Carry a Knife on a Plane?" you answered it. Good job. Voted Up and Useful.

summerberrie on April 25, 2013:

The men in my family carry knives. I just had my son unclip his from his pocket (going on a job interview). My husband forgot he had his in his pocket as we tried to board a cruise ship (one of his favorites). This is a useful hub and I'm glad the regulation has been relaxed. Like you they feel naked without their pocket knife on their person. My sons have been carrying them since they were twelve and they are like an extension of themselves.

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