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TSA scuttles plan to allow small knives on planes

Flight attendants for U.S. airlines hold banners and placards while picketing at Los Angeles International Airport's departure level demanding that sm...
Flight attendants for U.S. airlines hold banners and placards while picketing at Los Angeles International Airport's departure level demanding that small knives be kept out of their cabins on April 1, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP - Getty Images

The head of the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday he's dropping a proposal that would have let airline passengers carry small knives, souvenir bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes.

"After extensive engagement with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, law enforcement officials, passenger advocates, and other important stakeholders, TSA will continue to enforce the current prohibited items list," a TSA spokesperson told NBC News. "TSA’s top priority continues to be expansion of efforts to implement a layered, Risk-Based Security approach to passenger screening while maximizing resources. "

The proposal had drawn fierce opposition from lawmakers, airlines and others who said it would place passengers and crews at risk.

Thursday morning, passengers and airport workers at the Louisville International Airport in Ky. were mostly in favor of the ban being dropped.

"I don't want to be in close quarters with someone with a knife in an aluminum tube in the sky," American Airlines ticket agent told NBC News.

"I thought it was silly in the first place," said non-profit worker Bethany Daily, 26, flying to Albany. "I thought it was surprising and stupid that they allowed them."

Keith Burkhardt, a 43-year old marketing manager, told NBC News, "I don't see need the knives for knives on planes. Let's make the TSA jobs easier and flight attendant jobs easier."

However, some passengers thought the risk posed by passengers carrying pocketknives onboard planes was minimal.

Drew Davis, a 37-year old graduate student in Lewisville, Texas, who keeps a small Swiss army knife attached to his keychain, told NBC News, “There is a difference between carrying an item and using it. To use one of these items on a plane would be stupid.”

"All things can be used as a weapon," Donna Riley-Lein told NBC News. "The plastic wrap on a sandwich can make a weapon if you wish. Just hold it on someone's nose and mouth."

"There's no way of predicting every bad thing that's going to happen but pretending you have that capability will only create more stress," said Figueroa Michael.

Unions and groups representing airline and airport workers that had campaigned against knives being allowed praised the TSA's policy change.

"We commend the TSA for revising its policy," Veda Shook, president of the Association of Flight Attendants International, which actively campaigned against knives being allowed on planes, told NBC News. "Terrorists armed only with knives killed thousands of Americans on 9/11/2001. As the women and men on the front lines in the air, we vowed to do everything in our power to protect passengers and flight crews from harm and prevent that type of atrocity from happening ever again."

“This decision is the right one for the safety and security of every Transportation Security Officer, airline passenger and aviation employee,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement.

“We applaud this as a victory for common sense,” Gregg Overman, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association told NBC News.

Last month 145 House members signed a letter asking Pistole to keep the current policy that bars passengers from carrying aboard knives and other items.

"The writing was on the wall," Corey Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants told NBC News. "We are very happy that the TSA is not moving forward."

When Pistole released the proposal in March, he said the knives couldn't enable terrorists to cause a plane to crash.

TSA screeners confiscate over 2,000 of the small folding knives a day from passengers.

NBC News contributors Harriet Baskas and Dana McMahanand The Associated Press contributed to this report.