Post-attack tight security eased a bit on airliners

You can carry a corkscrew and keep your shoes on

October 12, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Metal butter knives are making a comeback aboard U.S. airliners; travelers are no longer forced to remove their shoes; and passengers are once again free to carry corkscrews.

Passengers are seeing some air-travel inconveniences disappear as the Transportation Security Administration clarifies security policies developed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"As the agency has grown, we've learned lots of lessons to make things easier, faster," TSA spokeswoman Andrea Munzer McCauley said.

Security is still tighter than before Sept. 11.

The TSA, which was created immediately after the attacks, now supervises 56,000 security screeners. It has overseen the fortification of cockpit doors on most of the 5,700-plus commercial aircraft in service with domestic carriers and the installation of explosive-detection devices at 429 airports.

But it's now debating whether some post-Sept. 11 restrictions can be loosened or lifted to make air travel more enjoyable.

"Our main mission is to provide the security, but very closely following that is customer service," Munzer McCauley said. "We're working with the airlines and airports and making things faster and convenient."

Last month, the TSA told airlines that they could again use metal butter knives as part of meal service.

Northwest Airlines Inc. quickly returned them to first-class meal trays, and Continental Airlines Inc. plans to add them Nov. 1.

Other airlines don't see the need. After Sept. 11, many airlines adopted menus with entrees that didn't require knives. Others eliminated meal service on many flights.

Travelers will notice other TSA changes before they get to the gate. The agency, for example, no longer requires passengers to remove their shoes while going through security checkpoints - unless they set off the metal detectors.

The TSA also has changed the list of what passengers can bring on board. Corkscrews and nail clippers are back in. So are knitting needles, cigar cutters and blunt scissors. Pool cues and golf clubs are still banned.

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