Knives at LAX, JFK restaurants raise security concerns

To cut a prime New York rib steak at Los Angeles International Airport, you must use a butter knife.
(Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)

As part of a $1.9-billion upgrade last year, Los Angeles International Airport added a slate of high-end shops and classy restaurants at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, including the 6,000-square-foot steak house III Forks.

Airport officials and fliers welcomed the upscale eatery as a departure from the more typical grab-and-go offerings. There was just one hitch: The restaurant handed out serrated steel knives to passengers who had already passed screening checkpoints before boarding a plane.

A similar problem came to a head last week at John F. Kennedy Airport, where reporters for Newsday and News 12 Long Island showed how easy it was to walk off with 5-inch steak knives from two JFK steakhouses.


Unions representing TSA officers and flight attendants lashed out at airport officials and others after learning how easy it was to pilfer the knives from restaurants.

“I’m appalled at this flagrant violation of airport security,” said David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents TSA workers.

Sara Nelson, president of the Assn. of Flight Attendants, agreed: “After Sept. 11, knives were banned for a reason.”

In response to the report, JFK officials banned metal steak knives from restaurants inside the secure areas.

At LAX, airport police and the Transportation Security Administration imposed a knife-tracking system when III Forks opened in July. Numbers were etched on the knives and guests were asked to show identification and boarding passes. The knives were handed out only upon request.

“It was pretty stringent,” said airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles.

But the system may have been too much of a hassle. People stopped asking for steak knives, and in August the restaurant got rid of them altogether. Guests must now slice through a 12-ounce New York strip with a butter knife.


To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.