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Swiss Army Knife in your carry-on?

The US authorities don't allow Swiss Army Knives or similar in your carry-on bags under the no-blades rule since Swiss Army Knives do include a blade tool. (I haven't checked the details on European rules.)

Still, I'm wondering if anyone here can report of occasions when you have had a Swiss Army Knife in your carry-on that didn't get noticed or did get through?

I believe RS has said somewhere that he will just buy one when he arrives since it is useful for picnicking and general chores/maintenance, and I also recall a local camping supplies store that had a big crate of used Swiss Army Knives that I think they got from a bulk auction by airport authorities that had confiscated them.

I have had small scissors and similar items squirreled away with my toiletries that didn't get a second look, but I haven't tried it with a Swiss Army Knife or a multitool.

Posted by
9363 posts

Actually, yes, I have had it happen twice. I was carrying a pair of binoculars that came in a case with a tiny side pocket (on the outside of the bag). As a "free gift", the pocket contained a small knife which I had never used, and actually had forgotten was even there. On both occasions, I noticed the knife after arriving at my destination. As far as your small scissors, certain small scissors are allowed - nail scissors and needlepoint scissors are both OK.

Posted by
544 posts

Anything like that is out I think. I had a small one on my keys that I forgot about years back and had to throw it out.

My dad accidentally had a pair of pliers in his bag last week and it was seized in Copenhagen. Security in Seattle, London and Oslo had no issue with it and my dad didn't even know he had it in there. There was no blade, it wasn't a multitool, but in the words of the Danish guard "that doesn't mean it's ok now."

I fly overseas a lot and find it easiest to check my bag so I don't have to worry about those rules. I carry an ultralight backpack as my carry-on that easily fits under the seat. I take just what I want for the flight, a sweatshirt, headphones, my phone charger, some toiletries and a change of clothes in case my bag is delayed a day, which happens a lot.

Posted by
16415 posts

I lost a Swiss Army knife that I forgot I had in my daypack. That was on a US domestic flight. Now I am very careful, as I don't want to lose another one.

Coming back from Australia last January I lost these folding scissors which I have carried through security in the US and Europe many times:

http://www.amazon.com/Dritz-177-Folding-Scissors/dp/B003WMG0PM

They said they were too pointy. So you just never know.

Posted by
3969 posts

My husband has his taken away from his 1 carry on bag nearly every time we go through security. It is a small 2"+ overall length knife. One of the perils of traveling with only carry on luggage (and forgetfulness :-)

I've noticed that he doesn't mind buying a new one from time to time though.

Posted by
11 posts

I'm currently in Europe, and flew into Prague 2 weeks ago (from Chicago) with a small pocketknife/scissors/nail file combo in my carryon. Less than 2 inches but still a blade, had no problems with it. Could've just been lucky though!

Posted by
5697 posts

Wouldn't chance it -- I did a domestic carry-on right after another (car) trip and had forgotten the knife was there but it was indeed found as the bag went through screening. Luckily I had plenty of time and was able to go back and check the bag (free) but I have been VERY careful since.

Posted by
311 posts

My husband always carries a knife. He knows to keep it in his checked bag. Unfortunately when we went to go on the London Eye, security freaked because he showed it to them and it was a lock back knife. We didn't know it was illegal in England. It was tagged, and a police report was written. We were assured it wouldn't cause us any problems to leave the country!! Lesson learned. He bought a new one in Germany!! We did get to go on the Eye!!

Posted by
5836 posts

I lost a Leatherman multi tool (it had a blade). I forget that it was in my carry-on duffle bag that I took on a bike trip. A minute or two after surrendering the Letherman, a realized that I could have checked the bag with the muli-tool bit it was too late. TSA has a locked drop box for knives etc that the TSA agents can't open.

Pre "11 September" I use to carry my stainless steel Swiss Army knife (the multi-blade basic, not the the small pen knife) through the airport metal detectors without setting of any alarms. And I use to fly 20 or 30 round trips a year.

Put your picnic knife in your checked bag or plan on making a donation.

Posted by
10344 posts

It's not a good idea to knowingly, deliberately carry a Swiss Army Knife in your carry-on. It's in a different category that forgetting a bottle of water in your carry-on, it's a knife and doing it deliberately is a violation of federal regulations. ,

Posted by
4162 posts

I have a black Lufthansa "Swiss" army knife in a leather sleeve embossed with W. Germany. My my mother was given it on her flight from the US to Frankfurt back in the early 80's. I have never used it and I don't think she ever did either. It has all the "dangerous" bells and whistles and is definitely a good souvenir of times gone past.

Posted by
1417 posts

Kent is right. ((about 5 years ago TSA spotted a tiny pair of scissors that came with my sewing kit.....such scissors were so useless & dull they barely cut one thickness of thread.

When I checked my bag to Italy last summer I included a blunt nose pair of child's fiskars, and a table knife with a tiny bit of serration. it was sufficient to split a baguette. it went into my back pack once we got to Italy, back into the roller back to ride home.

Posted by
32225 posts

I agree with the others, best not to take a chance as if it's found it WILL be confiscated! I always travel with a Swiss Army Knife but I keep it in my checked luggage during air travel. That's a much safer approach that won't require me to buy a new one after every trip.

Posted by
2497 posts

Thanks everyone for your comments, and for the reminder that there are other points at which security checks occur, too.

Posted by
8525 posts

avirosemail, I had one of those pinky-sized Swiss Army knives go undetected on an outbound flight (not intentionally - it was at the bottom of a bag normally used for car trips). It was found on the return flight, and the verbal abuse I got from the TSA agent has made me double-check every corner of every bag since. Mentioning to her that it was an accident, and was not caught on the first flight was like waving a red flag at a bull.

Posted by
26 posts

Those clever Swiss have developed a TSA-approved multi-tool that is essentially a Swiss Army Knife with no blade. It's called the Jetsetter and is available online for under $20. You'll have to supplement it with a paring knife and corkscrew purchased locally, but my own experience is that scissors and tweezers are needed in more situations. Another option would be the SwissCard, where the tools are packaged in a flat card rather than the pocketknife configuration. You could remove the blade and leave it at home when flying. In any case, the blade is described as an "emergency blade (letter opener)" and may not cut all that well.

Posted by
32225 posts

Anne,

I was carrying a Swiss Card the last time I travelled by air. The security personnel found it on the scanner and asked me to remove it for inspection. Fortunately I had taken the knife out and stored it in my checked luggage and they were satisfied with that. If I hadn't removed the knife it likely would have been "binned" and lost forever. The knife may be small but it's sharp and capable of more than just a letter opener.

Posted by
1040 posts

I forgot about a little Swiss knife at the bottom of my purse once. The security guards let me go back out, where they had conveniently placed a UPS kiosk, and let me mail it back to myself. This was at the Calgary airport, where everyone is nice and everything runs smoothly nearly all the time. I was grateful I hadn't lost my Swiss souvenir for a moment of forgetfulness, but it was a $20 lesson for a $20 knife.

Posted by
8964 posts

Flying from Madrid to Frankfurt on Iberia Airlines, I forgot that I had my Swiss Army Knife in the bottom of my back pack. They took it. I had flown to Madrid and then on to Pamplona from Frankfurt with a small checked bag that had my trekking poles, knife and toiletries. Returning flight to Frankfurt, they assured me that I could bring my poles in my carry on. Not quite sure about the logic of all of that. I could do a lot more damage with my 2 poles and their sharp pointed tips than with that small blade on my knife.

Posted by
33 posts

Forget about logic. There are security check points with transparent bins and hundreds of Swiss Armies and Leathermen inside. As trophy and warning to the ignorant or oblivious passenger.

After all, these multiple tool thingies are usually of poor quality and have cramped, bad ergonomics. And who ever used all of their features? Nowadays I prefer an Opinel which has just a blade, but is larger, more useful and cheaper to replace. Little screw drivers, scissors, sommelier knife, perhaps an Army can opener I keep in my toiletry kit in the checked baggage.

Posted by
1976 posts

As others have said, if you care about it, don't put it in carry-on luggage. I bring a pair of nail scissors that I wouldn't mind losing in case they're confiscated. Seven years ago I changed planes in Heathrow on the way to Brussels and security flagged me because of those scissors. They had to check whether the scissors would be allowed, and they told me the rules changed all the time so they weren't sure what the rules were that particular day! Ultimately they let me keep the scissors but I almost missed my connecting flight.

Posted by
101 posts

On my last trip to Israel I checked a small bag with a knife and some gifts for a friend. I gave away the bag and gifts, and kept the tiny Swiss Army knife with me.

On my trip home I didn't want to throw it away, but I had no suitcase to check it in. So I took the small drybag I used to wash my clothes, and inside went the knife, a bottle of sunscreen that I didn't need any more, and my phrase book. When the security asked if I was checking anything I showed her the drybag and she laughed. Believe it or not, it made it all the way back to the United States. The tiny bag had some stains on the outside, but no rips.

Posted by
222 posts

My experience with a knife in a my carry-on was not something I would care to repeat! Last summer I had packed a small picnic set - tiny spoon, fork and knife - that fold together. The knife had a metal rough blade that would slice bread and fruit. Leaving home from MSP I got stopped at security. Not only did they take my utensils but I had to unpack my whole suitcase ( thank goodness for packing cubes) and be body searched! It's a good thing that I arrived at the airport with lots of time to spare. I should have known better but I had taken this same set with me several times before. Oh, for the good old days!

Posted by
32225 posts

I've had some recent experience with Swiss Army Knives and airports which may be of interest. I've found that the staff at my local airport are extremely diligent and they don't miss anything. For example......

  • On my last trip in September, I packed a Swiss Card (which also contains a small knife) in my carry-on. They spotted the Card on the scan and checked it, but fortunately I had removed the knife and packed it in my checked luggage. Although the Card is very small, they still found it and I was impressed by their diligence.
  • On a more recent trip last week, I forgot that I had one of the very smallest Swiss Army Knives (only about 1.5" long) in my wallet. They found that too, even though it was in a compartment with several keys. Fortunately in this case, my car was relatively close and I had time to spare, so I took a brisk walk and left the knife in my car. I won't forget that again!

Based on my experience, I don't think it's a good idea to assume that any knives or items of that type will "not get noticed" or will "get through".

Posted by
2 posts

I've accidentally carried a Swiss Army Knife onto a plane at least 20 times, and have never had a problem! Maybe I'm just lucky?

Posted by
2749 posts

"I've accidentally carried a Swiss Army Knife onto a plane at least 20 times, and have never had a problem! Maybe I'm just lucky?"|

No, it's just that "theatre" is rarely effective. Sadly the TSA misses probably as much as they find.

Posted by
518 posts

I've brought my Swiss Army knife only in checked baggage. Ever since 9/11 I've known not to bring it on carry on. I later switched to bringing a small pair of folding scissors on my carry on and never had a problem, until last fall on a flight from Hong Kong back to San Francisco, the security at the Hong Kong airport found and confiscated my folding scissors prior to boarding. I know that many airports have different security procedures for their US-bound flights/boarding areas, but since I did not have a problem leaving San Francisco with those scissors in my carry-on I was surprised to have a problem on my way back.

Posted by
420 posts

Leaving Hawaii I didn't realize I had a butter knife in the small side pocket of my family size lunch cooler. It wasn't mine. It belonged to our timeshare and I had used all week for picnics and had forgot to return it. The funny thing is they pulled my 2 carryons and carefully went through everything because I was carry a big ziplock bag of laundry detergent and that's a red flag. So they carefully inspected the laundry detergent but completely missed the butter knife.

In case you're wondering I buy a giant container of Kirkland brand laundry detergent from Costco and detest having to buy it on trips when I can bring it from home for next to nothing.

Posted by
11613 posts

I have had the plastic corkscrew from the RS picnic set confiscated, manicure scissors get through every time.

Posted by
518 posts

"I was carry a big ziplock bag of laundry detergent and that's a red flag"

I always carry my own detergent too, only I put it in a small plastic bottle. I've never been questioned about it however. Maybe there's just something about "ziplock bags" that makes a white powdery substance look like something more than it is.

Posted by
32225 posts

Regarding the most recent comments about cutting implements "slipping through" security, I wouldn't count on it. In my case the staff at my local airport don't miss a thing and I'm sure staff at other airports are equally vigilant.

A good example is the very small knife provided in the Swiss Card, which is made by the Swiss Army people. They never fail to detect that (I always take the knife out and store it in my checked bag, but keep the rest of the Card in my carry-on). Another example - on a recent trip I forgot to remove the really small (about 1.5" long) Swiss Army Knife that I carry in my wallet and they found that too. I briefly considered tossing it into the bin, but fortunately the airport is small enough that I was able to make a quick trip outside and leave it in my car.

Posted by
79 posts

We had nail scissors confiscated from our checked bag in the Bahamas. The bag inspector said no scissors or knives in checked or carry-on luggage allowed.

Posted by
2497 posts

My solution for this most recent semana santa trip to Catalunya was a metal credit-card shaped multitool that was inside a shirt pocket inside the folding packer inside my RS convertible carryon. It has flat screwdrivers at the corners, perforations for a bottle opener and hex-head bolts, and a razor-blade letter-opener style notch for opening packages, etc.
It went through the scanners without a second look, which makes sense since the sharp edge doesn't face outwards.