TSA Knife Rules: Can You Take a Knife on a Plane?

TSA Knife Rules: Can You Take a Knife on a Plane?
What knives are TSA-approved? Unless it's a plastic butter knife, put it in your checked baggage.
What knives can you bring on an airplane?
What knives are TSA-approved? Unless it’s a plastic butter knife, put it in your checked baggage.
  • Put knives in checked baggage when flying.
  • Don’t bring anything you would miss if it were lost or stolen.
  • What knife is legal everywhere? Small, non-locking knives that open with two hands are almost always legal.
  • Research knife laws of your destination.

Despite a failed attempt in 2013 at allowing certain kinds of knives on airplanes, blades remain restricted when traveling on airplanes. Here are some tips for traveling with knives.

TSA Knife Rules

The following are the current rules for knives on airplanes from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

What knives are allowed on airplanes?
What knives does the TSA allow on airplanes? Here’s the list. Keep in mind that checked luggage is still subject to search, so don’t pack anything you’d miss if you lost it.

That said, there are still other considerations even if you decide to bring knives in your luggage.

Put Inexpensive Knives in Your Checked Baggage

Knives you can bring on a plane
For vacationing knife enthusiasts, Plaza Cutlery’s Dan Delavan suggests a Spyderco, Kershaw or CRKT knife in the $30 to $70 range. An example of the latter is the CRKT Pilar with a 2.4-inch blade of 8Cr13MoV stainless and a closed length of 3.5 inches. MSRP: $39.99.

The kinds of people who walk into Dan and Pam Delavan’s Plaza Cutlery retail knife store in Costa Mesa, California, go for all kinds of knives, from classic folders to KA-BARs. But when they walk through Plaza Cutlery’s doors to buy a knife for vacation, most buy inexpensive models to slip into their checked baggage—inexpensive in case the knives get lost, stolen or confiscated.

“When they fly, that’s when the knife changes,” Delavan said.

He shows them budget models by Spyderco, CRKT and Kershaw, knives ranging from about $30 to $75. If customers are into Spyderco knives they might buy one from the Byrd line, folders from Spyderco with cost-friendly materials. If the customers like higher-end models, they might buy a Benchmade.

“It’s all relative to what you can afford,” Delavan said.

Plaza Cutlery is in South Coast Plaza, a mall that bills itself as “a luxury shopping experience”—a vacation destination in and of itself. Nearby Disneyland is an international draw. Hollywood and its attractions are close, too.

When Delavan heads to Disneyland with Pam and the grandchildren, he often carries the Victorinox Swiss Army Classic, which can slip on a keychain. He said it’s small enough that the park allows him to carry it. Of course, always research the knife laws of the areas you will be visiting. For most places in the USA, a small, non-locking knife should be OK, “but you’ve got to check” to be sure, Delavan noted.

What Knife is Legal Everywhere? Best Bet: Small, Non-Locking Knife that Opens with Two Hands

What knife is legal everywhere
While there are no guarantees that a knife will be legal everywhere, your best bet is with a small, non-locking knife that opens with two hands. This Victorinox Money Clip is a great example.

Joe Tarbell’s retail store, JT’s Knife Shop, sits in a small building in Port Jervis, New York. The family-owned business began as an army surplus store near the Delaware River, which, during the summer, fills with kayakers and rafters.

“People ask me about knife laws quite often and it’s a pretty complicated subject,” he said. “Knife laws can be very vague and misunderstood. I have even had police tell me a lot of it is up to the discretion of the officer. I tell people to research the best they can and check out AKTI [American Knife & Tool Institute]. I can’t tell you how many people think that the law states that a blade can’t be larger than the palm of your hand, which is ridiculous.”

If a customer is traveling overseas, he suggests a small, non-locking knife such as a multi-tool or an Opinel.

What Happens If TSA Confiscates Your Knife?

You’ll likely have to buy it back, if you can find it. Start with GovDeals.com, where government-seized property is often sold.

Know Your Knife Laws with This Book

Knife Laws of the United States

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