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Switzerland Relaxes Rules About Knives on Planes - 2002-01-07

Officials at Geneva Airport have decided to allow passengers to carry some kinds of knives with them when they board airplanes.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, many airports around the world said they would no longer allow passengers to carry retractable knives of any kind on airplanes.

Officials at Geneva Airport say they decided to relax the ban on passengers carrying knives just a few days before Christmas. Under the new guidelines, a knife can be carried in hand luggage if its blade is shorter than six centimeters and it cannot be locked open.

Spokesman Philippe Roy says Geneva Airport decided to lift the prohibition after the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation determined that the small knives posed no danger. "In Switzerland, we are autonomous and we have the authorization of FOCA to apply this decision and we do," Mr. Roy said. "If an airline or company asks us to apply the decision to ban the knives, we will do that, but at this time we do not have the demand of the companies to ban the knives."

The Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation says that individual airports are free to apply stricter standards if they wished.

But the ban is not being lifted at all Swiss airports. Security personnel at Zurich Airport say they have decided to continue to confiscate any knives they find on passengers boarding planes.

Swiss Army pocket knives, sporting several short blades and useful tools, continue to be a popular souvenir here, and are sold at Switzerland's airport shops.

The man who led the September attack on New York's World Trade Center, Mohamed Atta, is know to have purchased a couple of Swiss knives at Zurich Airport's duty-free shop in July. The knives are not believed to have been used in the hijacking.

Despite the new rules at Geneva Airport, spokesman Roy still recommends that passengers store their Swiss army knives in the hold baggage to avoid any security delays.