Whether for convenience or protection, many people prefer to carry pocket knives as they go about their daily activities. Maybe you’re cutting a fishing line, slicing fruits, or just carry it in the form of a multi-tool which is always handy. However, you might want to rethink that if your plans for the day include air travel.
Everyone knows that there’s a wide range of items airports won’t allow you to carry. Most people are aware of the main contraband items i.e. firearms, drugs, and certain chemicals.
But what about knives? Can they be carried on or packed in the luggage? And if yes, can you bring any old knife or is there a particular type restriction? This segment teaches you everything you need to know about knives and airports.
Disclaimer: This should not be taken as legal advice. I’m just a travel/outdoor enthusiast who’s had a great deal of experience flying with all sorts of knives. For legal advice, speak to an attorney.
Flying with knives
Please note that different countries have different restrictions. According to TSA (Transportation Security Administration) guidelines, knives and other sharp objects are strictly prohibited on hand bags and carry ons in the plane. However, TSA also states that travellers can pack knives, pocket knives, and Swiss army blades in their check bags.
The only types of knives that are accepted on carry on bags are either plastic or round bladed butter knives. But even for the permitted knives, TSA states that they have to be safely packed. This allows the agents to check the contents without risk of injury. If your luggage is screened and the knife is not correctly packaged, it could get confiscated even if it’s permitted.
Types of knives you can bring on a plane
Generally speaking, all knives are allowed in your checked luggage. But like I mentioned earlier, the rules differ depending on the state or country. Technically, airline customs and luggage screening are not obligated to enforce state laws.
However, an employee could contact the police once they recognise an illegal knife. It’s advisable to check both your home country’s and destination laws on specific knives before carrying one. Here’s a list of knives that are safe to pack in your luggage bag in many countries.
- Pocket knives
- Tool sets with blades
- Kitchen knives
- Knives with blades less than three inches
- Knives classified as tools
- Most decorative knives with blunt blades
At the same breath, there are knives that should be avoided no matter what country you’re in. They include:
- Knives with concealed blades
- Butterfly knives
- Misleading knives that resemble ordinary objects i.e. lighter, comb or pen
- Flick knives and switch blades
- Bowie knives
- Push daggers
- Death stars or throwing stars
Should you declare knives in your luggage?
Officially speaking, you’re not obligated to declare your knives as long as they’re in the luggage bag. That’s because knives are sharp tools and not classified as firearms. However, my advice would be to always declare your knives in customs before they even ask. This will work to your benefit for two main reasons.
One, the rules could be different in your destination – it’s safer to declare the knife than to feign ignorance. And two, knife restriction rules can be confusing due to the wide range of knives available. As such, airline employees can get mixed up in their interpretation of what’s allowed and what’s prohibited. Declaring your items shows you have no ill or hidden intentions.
Now that you know about the knife restriction rules, you should be able to travel confidently on your next flight. And if you don’t own a pocket knife, then you clearly don’t have any inclination to either handiness or taste – get one immediately. But if you do own one, the tips above should help you travel without any problems with customs.
Just remember to declare your knives and have them packed the correct way. According to TSA, all sharp objects should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to bag handlers. So yes – you can bring a pocket knife on a plane. Just make sure it’s in the luggage bag and safely packaged or in a container.