Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, a pocket knife can be an invaluable tool to have with you at your destination.
Fortunately, you can bring a pocket knife on a plane – but only in your checked baggage, not your carry on bags.
This comes direct from the TSA.
However, note that the TSA also state that “TSA officers have the discretion to prohibit any item through the screening checkpoint if they believe it poses a security threat.”
There are a few other important things you should be aware of, though, before you think about flying with your pocket knife to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.
Table of Contents
- 1 Bringing a Pocket Knife in Your Checked Bag
- 2 Bringing a Pocket Knife in Your Carry On Bag
- 3 Airline Regulations
- 4 The Rules Change When Flying Internationally
- 5 You Can’t Bring All Types of Knives On a Plane
- 6 TSA-Approved Pocket Knifes is Just Marketing
- 7 You Don’t Have to Declare You Are Traveling With a Pocket Knife
- 8 You Can Bring Other Sharp Items on a Plane
- 9 Self-Defense Items Are Also Allowed
- 10 Fines
Bringing a Pocket Knife in Your Checked Bag
Passengers are allowed to pack a pocket knife in their checked baggage. This applies to standard pocket knives, kitchen knives, Swiss army knives, and surprisingly, even swords.
TSA does not have a limit on the length or type of blade either – i.e. curved blades, for example, are allowed.
You just have to make sure that you safely secure the blade to avoid any accidents in the event that your baggage needs to be opened and inspected.
Bringing a Pocket Knife in Your Carry On Bag
Under no circumstances are passengers allowed to pack a pocket knife in their carry on bags.
However, if you want to bring a plastic or round-bladed butter knife in your carry on bags, this is allowed.
Interestingly, in 2013, the TSA changed their rules to allow passengers to bring a pocket knife onboard in their carry on bags.
But the public, airlines, and the Association of Flight Attendants pushed back, making this repeal very short-lived.
All airlines, including American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue, follow TSA guidelines when it comes to bringing a pocket knife on a plane.
This means that pocket knifes are forbidden in your carry on bags, but allowed in your checked bags.
The Rules Change When Flying Internationally
Bringing a pocket knife on a plane isn’t like determining how many ounces you can take on a plane, which all countries are aligned on.
A pocket knife is considered to be a dangerous item that can be used as a weapon, which means international destinations have their own rules and regulations in place.
- EU: Knives with blades no longer than 6 cm (2.36 inches) are allowed in your carry on bags
- UK: Knives with blades no longer than 6 cm (2.36 inches) are allowed in your carry on bags
- Canada: Knives with blades no longer than 6 cm (2.36 inches) are allowed in your carry on bags
- Australia: Pocket knifes are forbidden in your carry on bags
- China: Pocket knifes are forbidden in your carry on bags
Having said this, there’s still a possibility that your pocket knife will be confiscated because the final decision will rest with the security officer at the checkpoint.
If they think your pocket knife poses a threat, they won’t allow you to pass through with it.
To be on the safe side, pack your pocket knife in your checked bag when flying domestically and internationally.
You Can’t Bring All Types of Knives On a Plane
While you are allowed to bring a wide range of knives on a plane in your checked baggage, there are several restrictions.
Generally, the restrictions only apply if the knife is illegal in the first place.
While states may have different laws, it’s a safe bet to avoid packing the following in either your carry on or checked bags.
- Flick knives
- Butterfly knives
- Knives that resemble other objects
- Throwing stars, death stars, throwing knives
- Push daggers
TSA-Approved Pocket Knifes is Just Marketing
There isn’t such a thing as a TSA-approved pocket knife.
TSA state that pocket knifes are allowed in your checked bags and forbidden in your carry on bags.
They do not give any more information than this, such as the type or length of the blade.
However, the TSA also state that “TSA officers have the discretion to prohibit any item through the screening checkpoint if they believe it poses a security threat.”
So if a TSA agent doesn’t like the look of your pocket knife, it may be confiscated.
You Don’t Have to Declare You Are Traveling With a Pocket Knife
In the USA, you are not required that you are traveling with a pocket knife.
This is because a pocket knife is classified as a sharp object – and as with other sharp objects, there is no need to declare them.
You Can Bring Other Sharp Items on a Plane
Many passengers want to know if they can take other sharp items on a plane – thankfully, the answer is yes to a wide array of items.
- Box Cutters: Only in your checked bags
- Disposable Razor: Only in your checked bags
- Electric Razor: Yes, in both your carry on and checked bags
- Ice Axes/Ice Picks: Only in your checked bags
- Razor-Type Blades: Only in your checked bags
- Sabers: Only in your checked bags
- Saws: Only in your checked bags
- Scissors: You can bring scissors on a plane in both your carry on bags and checked bags. But if packed in your carry-on, the blade must be less than 4 inches from the pivot point
- Sewing Needles: Yes, in both your carry on and checked bags
- Swiss Army Knife: Only in your checked bags
- Swords: Only in your checked bags
Self-Defense Items Are Also Allowed
You are allowed to bring one 4 fl. oz. (118 ml) container of pepper spray on a plane in your checked baggage, but are not allowed to bring pepper spray in your carry on.
You can bring a taser on a plane in your checked baggage (along with stun guns and electro-shock weapons), but they are not allowed in your carry on bags.
You can bring bear spray on a plane in your checked bags, as long as the volume of the spray is less than 4oz and the active ingredient is less than 2%.
Keep in mind that tasers are either banned, require a background check, or permit for civilian ownership depending on the state.
According to the TSA, only if you bring any of the following sharp objects are you subject to a fine, which can be between $390 – $2,250:
Axes and hatchets; bows and/or arrows; ice axes and ice picks; knives with blades that open automatically (such as switchblades); knives with blades that open via gravity (such as butterfly knives); any double-edge knives or daggers; meat cleavers; sabers; swords; fencing foils;machetes; throwing stars.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).