Can You Take Nail Clippers On A Flight?

Sharp objects are banned on most flights around the world, so not putting nail clippers in your hand luggage remains sensible advice. But it turns out the rules for this do vary depending on where you go.

Picture by Adrian8_8

The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) last week went out of its way to remind people that, despite common urban myths, people flying on domestic flights in America are actually allowed to take nail clippers on board. A widely-circulated urban myth suggests that soldiers were banned from taking nail clippers on board, even though they were allowed to take their firearms as hand luggage. The TSA went out of its way to point out that the story is not true, since the airport usually cited is military-only and doesn’t even involve standard civilian security procedures. More pointedly, it notes that nail clippers are not banned on domestic flights, despite a widespread belief that this is the case.

That seems entirely rational — it is hard to imagine a nail clipper as a violent weapon, and the US rules do exclude clippers with a separate blade, which is the one context it might happen. But it’s worth pointing out that the same rules don’t apply on Australian domestic flights. The official stance, via the Department of Transport and Infrastructure, outlines the policy, which isfairly clear:

There are certain items that you are not allowed to take in your carry-on baggage because they present a security risk. Prohibited items include, but are not limited to: sporting goods, kitchen utensils, tools, and other things with sharp edges or points capable of injuring someone.

And lest you be in any doubt on the matter, a second list of prohibited items specifically singles out “pointed metal nail files (including nail clippers)” as a banned object. There’s nothing vague or unspecific about it.

Does this matter in practice? It depends. I know people who have inadvertently packed nail clippers in their hand baggage and never been picked up at security. And I know people who have made the same mistake and had to surrender their grooming ambitions. It might be slightly a matter of luck, but if you do get caught, in Australia you won’t have a leg to stand on. So if that bothers you, add “manicure” to your list of essential pre-flight tasks.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman only gave up chewing his nails last year, so this issue hasn’t impacted him directly yet. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.

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