Rules for Knives and other Sharp Objects in Carry-on Baggage

The picture shows different knives that are forbidden in hand luggage in the us.

 

The subject of taking knives and other sharp objects on board an aircraft is a delicate one, but this is not surprising as these items can be used to injure or even kill someone. So it makes sense that there are strict rules regarding knives and other sharp objects that have to be adhered to.

In the United States of America, safety precautions regarding the transportation of dangerous items in hand luggage and checked baggage are particularly strict. These include knives and other dangerous objects. In the US, knives – with a few exceptions – are strictly prohibited in carry-on baggage. In Europe the situation is not much different, but some airlines allow the transport of smaller knives, especially pocket knives. Let us take a closer look at how different countries and regions handle this matter.

 

Knife-carrying restrictions in carry-on luggage | In the United States

What can you take in terms of knives and other sharp objects? In the US, knives are forbidden in hand luggage. This holds true for all sorts of knives – large knives, small knives, pocket knives and any other kind of knife. Most knives may be carried in checked luggage, though. When carrying knives in checked luggage, it is important to know which knives are actually allowed in the state that you are traveling to. The knife laws in the US are very complex and vary from state to state. This useful website will give you some valuable information about the knife laws by state; just click on a state on the map of the US and it will take you to the knife laws of that region.

The only knives that are allowed in carry-on luggage for travel within the US are plastic or round-bladed butter knives. As far as other sharp objects go, there are restrictions for many of them but some may be checked in. The following list will give you a nice overview of which objects are allowed and which are forbidden in both hand luggage and checked luggage. You can find further information at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is the organisation that oversees airline safety issues and sets the guidelines the airlines need to adhere to. But ultimately, it is the airline that decides what a traveler can take with them while traveling. For more information about traveling outside of the US and bringing back personal knives/switchblades/swords, please have a look at the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

TSA rules for knives in luggage (carry-on baggage and checked luggage) in the US

ObjectAllowance in Hand LuggageAllowance in Checked LuggageImportant info
Box cuttersNOYES
Cigar cuttersNO
YES
CorkscrewsNOYES
Crochet HooksYESYES
Disposable RazorYESYES
Ice Axes/Ice PicksNOYES
Knitting needlesYESYES
KnivesNOYESPlastic and round bladed knives are allowed in hand luggage, though.
Leatherman ToolsNOYES
Meat CleaversNOYES
Nail ClippersYESYES
Pencil SharpenersYESYES
Pocket KnifeNOYESNot permitted in the US; in Europe however, some airlines do allow this (restriction: blade length not longer than 6 cm)
Razor-Type BladesNOYES
SabersNOYES
Safety PinYESYES
Safety Razor with BladesNOYES
SawsNOYESThis is also including cordless power saws
ScissorsYESYESOnly allowed in carry-on baggage if less than 4 inches from the pivot point
Sewing NeedlesYESYESIn general, you are allowed to place your knitting needles and needlepoint tools in carry-on luggage or checked baggage. Please note that circular thread cutters or any other cutter or needlepoint tools that contain blades must be placed in the checked baggage.

Circular thread cutters or any other cutter or needlepoint tools that contain blades must be placed in checked baggage.
Swiss Army KnifeNOYES
SwordsNOYES
Throwing StarsNOYES
TweezersYESYES

 

Knife-carrying restrictions in carry-on luggage | In the EUpocket knife for hand luggage

In Europe, more precisely for flights within the EU, knives with a blade length of up to 6cm are sometimes permitted in hand luggage. This means that some airlines allow you to bring small knives on board, the most popular ones being the Swiss Army Knife Victorinox “Model Classic” or similar, as the blade does not meet the maximum 6cm length. The shape of the knife does not matter, as long as it is not a knife that is subject to the Weapons Act. Knives that are subject to the Weapons Act are prohibited in hand luggage. Knives with a blade length of more than 6cm may be carried in checked baggage. There is no quantity restriction for transporting knives in checked baggage. If you only travel with hand luggage, knives with a blade length of 6cm or more cannot be transported. For scissors/nail scissors, the same regulations apply (up to 6cm blade allowed; if longer, put it in checked luggage, unless they are forbidden under the Weapons Act, in which case they are not allowed in either). The general rule here is that if knives are forbidden, scissors are most likely forbidden as well.

The following airlines in Europe completely forbid the bringing of knives on board: Eurowings, Condor and Lufthansa, and Ryanair. Scissors are also not tolerated in these cases. Put small knives in the checked luggage and you should be fine, though.

Let us have a look at some other European airlines and find out what they have to say about knives on planes.

Easyjet: Easyjet says that it does not allow objects in hand luggage that have a sharp point or edge and are capable of being used to cause serious injury; items designed for chopping such as axes, hatchets and cleavers are therefore forbidden in carry-on baggage. Moreover, ice axes, picks, razor blades, box cutters, knives with blades of more than 6cm, scissors with blades of more than 6cm as measured from the fulcrum, martial arts equipment with a sharp point or edge, swords, swordsticks and sabres, ski and walking/hiking pole and crampons are not permitted in the cabin.

Air France: On its homepage, “What can I take” provides a list of what you can put in your hand luggage and what you can’t. The list of “weapons and sharp objects” that are forbidden in carry-on luggage is as follows: needles and hooks, poles for sking, walking or hiking, pocket knives or switch bladesno matter the length of the blade, scissors, meat cleavers, knives, including ceremonial knives and knives made of metal or any other material that is strong enough to be used as a weapon, cleats, arrows and darts, axes and hatchets, machetes, tools that can be used as blunt or cutting weapons (for instance box cutters, work knives and saws), ice axes and picks, ice skates, straight razors, sabers, swords and daggers, scalpels as well as throwing stars. All these items are allowed in hold luggage though.

Ryanair: Knives are completely forbidden on Ryanair flights, so no knives in hand luggage. For more information about Ryanair‘s hand luggage allowance policy, please have a look here: Ryanair carry-on baggage | All you need to know

Aer Lingus: You can find its list of restricted and prohibited items here. While it does not specifically say that knives and scissors with a blade length of up to 6cm are tolerated in carry-on luggage, it seems that the airline does accept it because under prohibited items (“List of prohibited articles into the Security Restricted Area of an airport and on onboard aircraft”) the airline mentions “knives with blades of more than 6cm and scissors with blades of more than 6cm as measured from the fulcrum”. So it looks like Aer Lingus is allowing those small pocket knives onboard just as some other European airlines still do. To be sure though, it is best to call the airline or contact them via their website.

Swiss: So what about the motherland of pocket knives? Knives with blades of more than 6cm and scissors with blades more than 6cm long from the fulcrum are forbidden in hand baggage. But knives with smaller blades, such as the Swiss Army Pocket Knife Classic, are allowed in hand baggage.

Larger knives (blade length longer than 6cm), on the other hand, must be – without any exception – stored in checked baggage. In any case, you should double-check with your airline for details of their policy on knives and pocket knives prior to your trip. It should be noted that in some countries, particularly strict regulations might apply to these kinds of items both inside and outside the airport.

 

Can you carry larger knives in checked baggage when flying within Europe?

Yes, you can – at least most of the time and with most airlines. In fact, it is always prefered to carry knives in the checked baggage instead of in hand luggage. The rules for knives in checked luggage are definitely not as strict and therefore you are less at risk of doing the wrong thing when carrying knives and sharp objects in checked baggage. Regarding the transportation of knives in luggage, the only restriction that always holds true is that of the Weapons Act. If the knife is not subject to the Weapons Act, you can most likely transport it in your checked baggage (please see below to find out if your knife might be subject to the Weapons Act). However, you need to make sure that any sharp objects in checked baggage are securely wrapped to prevent injury to screeners and handling personnel. As always, please double-check with your airline first to be on the safe side if you want to include your knife arsenal in your checked baggage.

Hint: In exceptional cases, it is possible that knives may be subject to further investigation, even when stored in checked luggage. The legal provisions of the Weapons Act are reviewed here. So if you are planning a trip where you take knives with you, make sure that you arrive at the airport in good time so that you can still make it onto your flight, even when a “knife check” is necessary. However, please note that due to the delay, your luggage may be transported to its destination on the next flight.

 

Is your knife subject to the Weapons Act? Example → Germany

Whether a knife is subject to the Weapons Act or not often depends on the length of the blade and the functionality of the knife. If the knife is subject to the Weapons Act, it may not be carried in hand luggage or checked baggage. To find out, it is best to contact the weapons authority of the respective country or the Federal Criminal Police Office. In Germany, for instance, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has established binding guidelines on when a knife is to be treated as a tool and when it is to be classified as a weapon. An important declaration regarding the law on weapons and knives was issued there in 2003 and can be seen here:

 

 

 

The following knives usually fall under the Weapons Act in Germany:

  1. lockable folding knife (subject to the guidance requirement of the Weapons Act)
  2. carpet knife, diving knife or rescue knife with a blade length over 12cm
  3. see also forbidden knives (next section)

Remember: If a certain knife falls under the Weapons Act, it is generally forbidden in both hand luggage and checked baggage.

 

These knives are forbidden in Germany

The following knives are completely forbidden in Germany. Accordingly, they may neither be owned nor carried, let alone carried in hand luggage or luggage!

  • butterfly knife
  • drop knife
  • box knife
  • knife with a blade length over 8.5cm
  • balisong knife
  • switchblade

We believe that this list of forbidden knives is a good reference point as to which knives are usually forbidden in countries in the EU. However, as stated above, these facts are only representative of the situation in Germany. So if you are travelling in/to other countries within Europe/the EU, please contact the weapons authority of the respective country or the Federal Criminal Police Office to find out more about the rules about knives. It is important to note that for some knives it might be ok to own them in country X, but not to bring them into that country, for example.

Disclaimer: We do not assume any liability for the contents of our website. However, we make every effort to provide accurate information on all questions concerning airline luggage and keep the site up to date as much as possible. However, it is possible that information may be incorrect or outdated. Rules and regulations in this field change all the time, so it is almost impossible to be 100% accurate. In case of doubt, you should always contact the airline/airport/other authorities in charge and educate yourself about the exact regulations.

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