Flight attendant rep sounds alarm on relaxed TSA knife rule

In a partial rollback of post 9/11 regulations, the TSA will allow certain-sized knives aboard flights. Some airline employees worry about the new rules, reports Bob Orr.

(CBS News) The rules are changing for flyers and not everyone is happy about it.

Starting late next month, passengers will be allowed to board commercial flights with knives, something that hasn't happened since the September 11th attacks. The new measure is a partial rollback of one of the core aviation security changes triggered by 9-11. After al Qaeda terrorists used box cutters to hijack four jetliners, the U.S. government outlawed knives on planes.

Knives to be allowed on flights changed dubbed "shortsighted"

Over the last 12 years, millions of knives have been confiscated at airport checkpoints. Now, the ban is being relaxed. Effective April 25, air travelers will be permitted to carry small folding pocket-knives as long as blades are no longer than 2.36 inches -- and no wider than half an inch. Box cutters and larger knives will still be banned.

But flight attendants say even small knives present a real threat. Stacy Martin, president of the Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Union, said, "When you look back before 9/11, all it took was box cutters coming through. At this point you have knives, small knives, it's all the same to us."

Martin added, "They're allowing these items to come through and they're putting the responsibility of the cabin completely on us even though they know coming through security are these items."

The Transportation Security Administration argues the change brings U.S. regulations in line with international safety rules. And it will allow security officers to spend more time looking for "higher threat items" like explosives.

Mark Rosenker, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and a CBS News consultant, says security officers have to stay focused on the real dangers. "This really is a good decision," he said. "We've seen underwear that can blow up. We've seen people that have shoes they've attempted to blow up. We've seen people with chemicals that could potentially blow up. And they really need to be looking at the kinds of threats that are significantly more lethal than a two-and-a-half-inch blade."

In addition to small folding knives, passengers will also be able to carry golf clubs, lacrosse sticks and ski poles aboard planes. But, with reinforced cockpits, and on some flights, air marshals and armed pilots, it's hard to see how any of those tools could be used to commandeer a plane.

For Bob Orr's full report, watch the video above.