In recent years, the rules and regulations surrounding the transportation of pocket knives on airplanes have become understandably increasingly strict. Many travelers may find themselves unsure of what they can and cannot bring on a plane when it comes to pocket knives and other types of knives.
Whether you’re a frequent flyer or planning a one-time trip, it’s important to understand the rules and regulations surrounding pocket knives on airplanes to ensure a smooth and stress-free journey.
This article will provide an overview of the current regulations and guidelines for carrying a pocket knife on a plane, as well as some tips for safely and legally traveling with this type of item.
The Quick Answer: TSA knives rules state that you cannot bring a pocket knife in carry on baggage so it should be packed in your checked baggage if you need to take it with you. Only plastic or round-bladed butter knives are permitted in carry on bags.
Can you bring a pocket knife on a plane?
Pocket knives and other sharp items fall under the TSA airport security rules which govern carrying any sharp object that might potentially be used as a weapon. These rules are, quite understandably, quite strict.
Also, if you are putting things such as knives in your checked bags please do the same so that they cannot end up poking through your luggage and injuring a baggage handler.
Can you take a pocket knife through airport security
You are not permitted to take a pocket knife through a security checkpoint at the airport in either your carry on baggage or on your person in your pocket. It makes no difference whether it is a small pocket knife or if it has small blades or not.
If you leave a pocket knife in your hand luggage when it goes through the x-ray machine then you can be sure that the security officer operating the machine will spot it. Your bag will then be put aside for extra screening and the pocket knife will be confiscated when it is found.
Likewise, if you leave it in your pocket then it will set off the metal detecting machine when you walk through it. You will then be pulled aside for further checking using a metal detecting wand and probably a pat down. When the knife is found it will be confiscated and you will probably be taken to be screened in a full-body scanner.
The final decision rests with the TSA officer about whether you can take anything with you.
The Transportation Security Administration sharp objects rules are very strictly enforced.
This is a quote from a TSA newsletter:
“If we had a nickel for every knife we see in a carry-on bag, well, we’d all be retired and off living on some beautiful island by now. Only butter knives without serrated edges are good to travel in your carry-on luggage. Let’s be as clear as we can possibly be: Sharp knives including pocket butterfly knives cannot go in your carry-on. If you’re travelling with any sharp items, please securely wrap them and pack them in your checked bag.”
You are permitted to take a plastic knife, plastic butter knife or a round-bladed butter knife through security but I have no idea why someone would feel the need to take a butter knife with them on a trip.
British airport security allows knives with blades shorter than 4 inches (6cm) which is surprising as it is illegal to carry a knife in the UK with a blade longer than 3 inches. The TSA regulations were relaxed on smaller knives for a while but then reinstated.
This is the TSA’s response on Twitter to a passenger’s question regarding carrying a small pocket knife:
Can you bring a pocket knife on a plane in carry on luggage?
The TSA does not allow pocket knives in hand luggage at all. This is the current regulation on the TSA website relating to knives.
This applies to taking small knives onboard or pen knives, Swiss army knives, leatherman, modeling knives, kitchen knives, throwing stars, box cutters and even scissors with a blade longer than 6 cms from the pivot point.
You are allowed to carry plastic or round-bladed butter knives in your carry on – but again, why would you want to?
If in doubt pack it in your checked luggage.
Can you put a knife in a checked bag?
As with many things, even items that are potentially contentious from an airport security point of view, you can often carry in your checked baggage. Pocket knives are no exception so you should put them in your checked luggage should you need to take any with you.
Please spare a thought for the baggage handlers. When checking knives in luggage make sure they are either in a sheath or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors.
This is the TSA confirming via their #AskTSA service on Twitter that a pocket knife can be packed in a checked bag:
Do you have to declare knives in checked luggage?
When traveling within the US you do not have to declare that you have a knife in your checked baggage, unless it is a banned type of knife (when you shouldn’t have it anyway).
If traveling internationally you will have to check that they are permitted before traveling. As an example, in the United Kingdom, certain knives such as switchblades, flick knives and lock knives are banned completely so you cannot take one into the country with you.
If you are bring a knife back to the US that you have purchased overseas then although you do not need to decare it at departure you should make customs aware when you arrive as you may have to pay duty on it.
Can you bring a knife in a checked bag internationally?
The same rules apply to where you can bring knives, including pocket knives, on international flights as they do on international flights. So they must be packed in checked baggage.
In addition, you must also take into consideration whether a particular type of pocket knife is allowed under the knife laws of the county you are visiting.
For example, in the UK, flick knives (switchblades) are totally banned along with butterfly knives, zombie knives, belt buckle knives and some other knives. You cannot carry a lock knife on your person either.
How to pack a knife in checked baggage
The most important thing about packing a knife in checked baggage is to ensure that it is properly sheathed. If you do not have a sheath then it should be wrapped securely in something that will not allow the blade to stick through.
This is for two reasons:
- To ensure that the knife cannot stick out of the baggage during its journey through the baggage system to the plane and to the baggage reclaim area at the destination. If it did then tit may injure a baggage handler.
- If your bag is selected for a manual search then the agent carrying out the search may be injured if the knife is not sheathed.
Can you retrieve TSA confiscated knives later?
There is no way of retrieving TSA confiscated knives, as this passenger found out:
What sharp objects can you bring in carry on?
You are permitted to take the following sharp objects through airport security in carry on baggage:
- Scissors but the blades must be less than 4 inches from the pivot point. (see Can you take scissors on a plane)
- nail clippers
- tweezers (see Can you take tweezers on a plane)
- knitting needles (See Can you take knitting needles on a plane)
- crochet hooks (See Can you take crochet hooks on a plane)
- bottle opener
Can you take a Swiss Army Knife on a plane?
Do you have to declare knives in checked luggage?
Generally you do not have to declare if you have knives in your checked luggage, even if traveling internationally. However, you cannot pack illegal knives.
What knives are TSA approved?
There are no such things as TSA approved knives, with the exception of plastic and butter knives which are allowed rather than approved.
I am a chef so can I take my kitchen knives in my carry on?
No matter what your profession, you cannot take knives in your carry on. They must be packed in checked luggage. You should ensure the knives are sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers.
Can you bring a hunting knife on a plane
You can only take a hunting knife on a plane in checked baggage, not in a carry on bag.
Do you have to declare knives in checked luggage
You do not have to declare that you have a knife in your checked bags. However, you must ensure that the knife is in a sheaf or wrapped securely so there is no chance of it sticking through your baggage and injuring a baggage handler.