The US Transportation Security Administration will announce later this week that passengers will again be able to carry small tools and scissors aboard commercial airplanes, as it tries to focus its security efforts on more serious threats, like explosives, two Homeland Security officials said on Tuesday.
The announcement, which is expected to be made tomorrow in a speech by Kip Hawley, the assistant secretary for transportation security, will lift a ban that had been imposed on metal scissors with pointed tips of 10cm or less and on screw drivers, wrenches and other tools that are 17.5cm or less, the two officials said.
They said the relaxation of the rules, first reported on Tuesday by the Washington Post, is possible because of improvements made since the September 2001 attacks, including more secure cockpit doors, an increase in the number of air marshals flying on flights and, most important, improvements in screening of passengers and all their checked, unaccompanied luggage at major airports.
The officials spoke only if granted anonymity because the official announcement will not be made until tomorrow and details of the speech are still being approved.
Lara Uselding, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Agency, confirmed that Hawley intended to announce rule changes but said she was not able to discuss the specifics.
In recent weeks, the agency has expanded its use of newly unveiled so-called "puffer" machines that use a burst of air to check passengers for traces of explosives.
Eliminating the delays caused by passengers who are in most cases inadvertently carrying scissors or tools in their luggage or on their person could free more time for the puffer machines, which are still being rolled out at major airports across the US.