WASHINGTON, March 5 (UPI) -- U.S. transportation officials said Tuesday they will relax rules on what passengers may carry on airline flights and will focus more on "higher threat items."
In a news release, the Transportation Security Administration said beginning April 25, passengers will be permitted to carry "knives that do not lock, and have blades that are 2.36 inches or 6 centimeters or less in length and are less than 1/2 inch in width" -- as well as "novelty-sized and toy bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs" as part of their carry-on baggage.
"This is part of an overall Risk-Based Security approach, which allows Transportation Security Officers to better focus their efforts on finding higher threat items such as explosives," the announcement said.
The TSA said the change was intended to align U.S. rules "more closely with International Civil Aviation Organization standards" and reduce the amount of time required for passengers to go through screening.
Stacy K. Martin, president of Southwest Airlines' flight attendants union, TWU Local 556, criticized the new rule, saying it will result in threats to passengers and flight attendants, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Martin said the new rule will worsen the problem of crowded overhead bins on airliners.
"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," Martin said.
The TSA said existing security measures -- including hardened cockpit doors, armed federal air marshals, armed pilots and crew members trained in self-defense -- will help preserve safety on airliners.