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.


    What i don't understand is the bureaucrazy of putting the infringing material to the baggage/inside the plane after the initial baggages check in or after the immigration (let's say usually these sort of materials detected after?) Why are they so lazy to do so?

    All they need to do is put the infringing materials to a special compartment (plastic bag?) with label showing name/owner --> pass it over to staff who has access to ground crew, ground crew pass it to staff who have access to the belly of the plane. Not so difficult if there's clear cut policy for this process. For sure there is a time limit - how many minutes before take off a passenger still can do this.

    Or am i missing something obvious beside they just don't want to do that (because staff/time limitation BS?)

    The whole 'what is and isn't allowed on a plane' thing is weird - I've got a mate who wears dog-tags. They set off the alarm but he's never asked to throw them away or even have them inspected. It would be a piece of cake for him to have got the edges (inside the little rubber lips that they sit in) razor sharp.

    So, nail clippers? Sorry sir. What amounts to two razor blades you could slip into a handle and make an incredibly dangerous weapon that could kill someone with one well-struck blow? Welcome aboard.

      ... and don't worry about the fact that every piece of extendable-handle carry-on luggage includes several steel spikes that you wouldn't want to be poked with, even if they weren't maliciously sharpened.

      I appreciate the need to be careful but binning the 1" stump nail-clippers seems a little pointless when there are dozens more lethal implements on board.

    If you can hijack a plane with nail clippers, you can hijack a plane without them. These security measures are just ridiculous they do nothing to improve security, they're only there to make us feel uncomfortable and breaking our will to rise against these rules.

    I think you'll find that that 'second list of prohibited items' is in fact a list of items that are permitted after December 25, 2009. This squares with the Qantas website, which states:

    From 25 December 2009 the following items may now be taken through security screening points and into the sterile area of airports within Australia:
    * umbrellas with metal points
    * knitting and crochet needles
    * pointed metal nail files (including nail clippers)
    * corkscrews, and
    * racquets used in squash, tennis, badminton or any other sport.

    I sometimes secure my checked-in baggage with coloured cable-ties. So that I can cut them off at my destination, I have a small nail clipper (about 5cm long) on my carry-on. This has been through the x-ray machine dozens of times and I have never been questioned about it or asked to surrender it.

    At Brisbane airport, they confiscate two small allen keys that came with my tripod and were in my tripod bag :( Weird, cos they were fine on the way up from Sydney :|

    The "security" policies are not about protecting anyone. They are about creating the illusion that something is being done.
    I have lost nail clippers and tweezers in the past.


      I have agreed with James' comments since TSA started. Safety is an illusion. Ballpoint pens can become lethal weapons, luggage straps can strangle, and you don't have to be MacGyver to figure out dozens of ways to use "safe" items to kill people.

    @Jay, at Sydney domestic I had to check in my tripod as it was deemed to be a dangerous weapon. I guess they didn't like the ball head?

    I recently came back to Australia from a trip to India, on all flights I boarded I was able to get a canned softdrink/ beer. Now it seems these rules are beyond reasonable if I can make something sharper than a nail file or in some cases a knife. I dread the thought of slicing my finger on a sheared coke can. Thats sharp!

    I remember I was in Tasmania going back to Melbourne and the Airport Security quickly removed my deodorant because it didnt have a lid on it. I wasn't treated very politely either so it did cross my mind when I saw I could buy deodorant cans after this security check point/xray, to remove all the lids and strap them on to my body like a bomb and then sarcastically tell those idiots from the checked side of security " OH NO THE PLANES... THEY DONT SMELL!" stupid morons

    My nail clippers made it from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi then were confiscated at the start of the Abu Dhabi to Sydney leg. Same plane IIRC.

    well, we're expected to believe you can hijack a plane with a stanley knife, so... it seems even a plastic fork would be enough

    I think they expect everyone has an incredibly ingenius worst-case scenario plan using nail clippers. I would only consider Macguyver capable of such a thing.

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