Knives and Airports


Oct 6, 1998
I know this topic has been bandied about before. I recently moved north, and once arrived, I had my box of Spyderco's, BM's, and custom's shipped to me via UPS. (Yes, we're talking over 60 knives!)

1) What are the general restrictions on knife carry on airplanes?

2) More specifically, can I carry a Q or a Delica or must I stick with the smallest models, such as the DragonFly?

3) Would it help if the knife were packed in the suitcase?

4) And lastly, why do they freak out over serrations? Are fully serrated models ever allowed?

Thanks for the insight.
a lot of it has to do with how you present yourself and your overall demeanor. I lived in Europe as a teenager and never had any problems carrying a SAK on my keychain. It was a full-sized knife (the Weekender, I guess). Also carried little Schrades and stuff on various trips with no problems. My dad works for a tire company and has to do a lot of cutting of samples off tractor tires in the field. He has a number of large, super sharp knives to do this that he carries with him on the planes, and while he usually has to open up the tool roll and show them to the customs guys, they never harass him about them. If the knife is a folder of decent size or serrated, I would put it in my suitaces and play dumb n' nice. best policy is to act like you don't know anything, be really courteous and don't say things like "my rights" and you should get along just fine. That's just personal experience, though.

Palmer College of Chiropractic
On Two Wheels
I just got back home from Miser...Missouri, and I was surprised to find that the St. Louis airport was pretty lax when it came to knives. After I went through the trouble to stash my small horde of goodies in the checked baggage, I go through security and the lady tells me anything under 4" was fine.

I have had a different experience at the Anchorage airport where they sem to limit it to 2.5" and no serrations. This has not stopped me from experimenting with security over there, and though I o not condone this sort of thing, I have made some interesting findings. The "stick it in the checked baggage on edge" trick does still work here, as well as the "pass it off as a money clip and put it in the tray" trick. I could have put a gun in the tray and the attendant would not have noticed, he did not even look down. The same goes for the attendant at the ST. Louis airport. They did do a random bomb check on me there, but the lady that did that was really nice. Another plus was that the Security people at the St. Louis Terminal all spoke English which made going through security a more pleasant experience.


It is not a matter of whether or not you are paranoid, it is a matter of whether or not you are paranoid enough.
Anyone ever have a knife confiscated at the airport? Did they return it at your destination?, scream for the cops?, sell it?
I had a Spyderco Q confiscated in the Rochester, NY airport. I was wearing a suit and was there to pick up a customer for a meeting. They confiscated it due to the serrations. Luckily, I was there just to pick someone up and I got it back when I left.
When they took it I asked why and they said serrations. I asked if there was a new city ordinance or law and they said, no, it was passed down by the airport authority. They could tell I wanted a better answer and every security person there found a way to ignore me and move away.

That same Q got me stopped in Chicago but they let me keep it due to a long line of people me and not wanting to deal with me holding up the line.

For these two reasons, I do not travel with a serrated blade of any type
American Airlines just sent letters to some of the AAA members stateing no serrated knives are longer allowed on airplanes. I have not seen this letter yet I have had several clients tell me about them. I have asked for copies but haven't recieved any.
Also my experience is minimum wage+minimum education+complete authority= overreaction. Don't mess with them it is not worth your time or money. I always travel with firearms anyway so I do not worry about packing my knives with them. I always carry a SAK and at least a Delica/NS. So far no trouble.

Happy Trails,


"Cet animal est tres mechant;quand on l'attaque il se defend."("This animal is very mischievous: when it is attacked it defends itself")
I had a steak knife, of all things, taken from me at CLT airport.My spouse and I had previously used the bag I was carrying as a picnic bag and forgot about it being in there.
The guard just said I could turn it over or take it back to my car.Being in a hurry I let them keep it.
Some sound advice by others in the forum is to take a padded self adressed stamped envelope with you .If there are any problems,you can make sure your knife will be returned
Be Sharp

I worked for ITS for one year as a screener (rent-a-cop) so I think I have some knowledge about air travel security.

First, you're dealing with more than one institution setting rules. FAA sets general rules and then RAA or the FAA divided into regions sets their rules and then the airline with the most gates on the concourse has the authority to set their own rules within FAA guidelines. So you see how a 4" blade or less utility knife can turn into no serrated blades, no blades over 2", etc. The supervisor is also given some judgement by the phrase 'no menacing' knives. This is where serrations can be rejected by individual screeners even though it may not be any real policy of the airline you're traveling on.

My advice is call the airline and see what the policy is for their security. Even then what you're told depends on who answers the phone and if they really want to deal with you.


Did you go through the domestic or international terminal? I have gone through the dometic terminal several times with a Buck 110 or CrossLock. And being a former employee doesn't give me any special priveledges.

Most airlines give you the option to check your knife as baggage. Alaska Airlines will even provide a box so you do not have to pull your bag unpack it, store your knife and repack it.

I hope this helps since I see this question several times.
I have traveled with full size endura black balde fully serated no issue other than a looksee by security girl, very intelligent, but the same security gate made me check my delica in a cardboard box they gave me (?)

I tried to run around the security gate at Midway Chicago- late picking up the girlfrienmd and had BlackJack folding Mamba and Serrated Endura in pockets, they let me thru.

In Cedar rapids Iowa they tried to take away my Tekna Knife keychain (about 3/4 inch blade) and I told them I wanted my keys back now..small airport, nothing to do.

Bigger city= less hassle me thinks, but lok respectable, comb your hair, none of the "personal statement" BS...if you want the privelege or right to carry your knife, depending on the point of view you have, you have to earn it. No five earings and multiple piercings if you are going to carry a Bagwell, I guess.

Had to check my Endura at Pearson International (Toronto) after informing the guard that it was below the legal limit, and my opening it for him slowly, with both hands. Said security guard took knife to supervisor and came back with the bad news. It turns out that some airlines (Canada 3000) won't even let a keychain SAK on, while others wouldn't mind an Endura like mine.

Of course, on the way BACK from Cuba, the Endura was packed away in luggage; no way in hell some crooked guard's going to pocket that baby.

"Earth has its boundaries, but human stupidity is limitless."

This does not concern knives but it does concern Airport Security(or lack there of). A few years ago I was coming back from the air show in Oshkosh. I can't remember if it happened in Milwauke(SP??) or Clevland. I was coming through the metal detector and since I like books almost as much as I like pointy things, I was carrying one. The old guard asked for me to flip through my book to make sure that it was a book and not a concelment device. It was a copy of the Nibelungenlied so it was not very thick but it still could have conceled enough explosive to down a plane.
Ever since then I have made it a point to drop the book it the tray ON TOP of everything else. They don't even check. I mean, that's clearly suspicious, isn't it?

But doom'd and devoted by vassal and lord.
MacGregor has still both his heart and his sword!
-MacGregor's Gathering, Sir Walter Scott
This topic has been throughly beaten to death (not even stabbed or slashed, but beaten) in the past. You might try a little searching through the archives. I think you'll find plenty of information and suggestions there.

Last summer, on two trips between NWK and LAX,
I put a multi-tool and a fully-serrated Delica in
a carry-on backpack with no problems. Having said
that, if you really must carry on a plane, get yourself
a 3" or less plain-bladed, inocuous looking lockback, like
a SOG Autoclip or better yet, a POS knockoff, just
for the purpose of flying.
All I can say is that you guys are lucky. I lost a 4" Buck knife (Bucklite III) at Detroit Metropolitain. I had it in my carry-on bag, and they scanned and rescanned my bag, looked through it, found the knife and called security. My options were to check the bag (a line a mile long, and me running late), or to leave the knife with them. They wouldn't let me mail it to myself, or anything.

I think some of you guys are flirting with danger IMHO.

I was at Bradley International Airport in Ct. going to Tampa. I had two kama's with 8" blades in my carry on bag. When I went through security, they got excited and had someone put them in a cardboard box for me, but it was no big deal. Got off the plane and picked them up. I really don't know what all off the rules are at each place. Might be in violation just walking into the airport with knives or guns etc.. They told me a gun is okay in a locked hard case. Bolt open, ammo separate.


[This message has been edited by JAY H (edited 26 June 1999).]
It seems to have something to do with the personality of the official. I had one guy at the metal detector ask me why I had such a big knife. I told him I packed and shipped for a living and he grudgingly gave it back. He was probably bored. I guess it's best to put it in the luggage if taken. As for the serrations, I guess it makes a knife more wicked looking even though it doesn't make it any more dangerous.

[This message has been edited by stray (edited 29 July 1999).]
McCarran International in Las Vegas, I walked onto a plane with(no exaggeration here): A BM AFCK in my hip pocket(just dropped it into the tray), a BM Nimravus in carry on, A CS Kobun in carry on, three-THREE BM balisongs in carry on, and a SAK on my keychain! The lady working the X ray just looked at me with really big eyes and asked me what I needed all of those knives for!

Then again, I was assaulted by airport security (hint for all of you rent-a-cops here, don't ever, ever try and put someone in a submission hold without first asking for cooperation/identifying yourself. Just ask the guy at LAX with the broken clavicle
) in Los Angeles, for walking through the 'Terminal Area' with same Nimravus in the waistband of my three piece suit. I guess I didn't really meet the concealed requirement of concealed carry that morning

Just play it safe, put your knives in your check in, and ask the stewardess on the plane for a steak knife
(yes, she actually gave me one). I've also found that if you throw a toiletry bag into your carry on, with a knife(no Busse BM's here) like a 4" folder in it, they never(at least not yet) even look twice at it. \

Good luck,
Since a psycho stabbed a JAL pilot to death last week, you won't be able to take a pencil on a plane. 90% of airport security is to make people think they're "doing something." Any determined felon can cause havoc. Anyone with wire cutters can get on to the tarmac. Did you hear about the kid at Logan who stowed away on a flight to England like that?

BTW I wish I could search for strings but the search function is off for the time being.
It's about time for this thead to come 'round on the old guitar again.

Chiro75 said it best a month ago, "A lot of it has to do with how you present yourself and your overall demeanor."

At a busy airport check point, the guards "screen" literally hundreds of people an hour. They have a couple of seconds to make decisions about you. They basically judge the book by its cover.

If I know that I'm going to be judged by my appearance, by my language, by my simple actions, and by my demeanor, then I'm gonna put on the best show I can every time.

I never try to conceal my AFCK. I put it in the change tray and hand it to the guard. Only once has it been turned away. Fortunately, I was very early and the ticket counter was only a few hundred feet away, so I took it back and had it checked through as baggage. (The agents have envelopes for such things.)

My "secret?" Dress well, smile, and be very polite.

Several years ago, I waltzed through security with my AFCK as the guard one line over stopped a fellow with a smaller knife than mine. He was wearing a tee-shirt that said, and I don't make these things up, "I don't use 911, I use 9mm." That'll get the guard's attention. He was also being very loud and argumentative and using foul language. This is not the way to get through security. The guard had about two seconds to judge this book by its cover, and the cover spoke volumes.

If the guard does question your knife, the most important thing to do is this: do not make a scene. Do not attract attention. The guard's biggest personal fear is that someone will complain about him to his boss. One to many complaints and he looses a good job. He knows that if he turns you back, you might complain. But, he'll tell the boss that you were acting crazy, making threats, that the knife was huge and vicious-looking, etc., and the boss will write that complaint off. If, on the other hand he lets you through, then maybe the folks around you and behind you who saw the whole thing will complain that the guard let this threatening-looking knife through. If you draw a lot of attention to the problem, you put the guard in a no-win situation. In that situation, sending you back is the lesser of the risks for him.