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Earlier in my life, when I flew less, I took a small metal knife, fork, and spoon with me most places so that I could eat anywhere without my silverware splintering into my food. Lately, I've learned that silverware gets confiscated at airports, even dull butter knives, but that nonetheless disposable plastic knives and forks make it through airport security without any issue. This brings me some hope, as it seems that it's really the metal that's the problem, not the pointiness.

  1. What are the actual guidelines on the constitution of admissible eating implements?

  2. What's a good alternative to traditional metal cutlery for me—durable, but such that airport security definitely won't make me throw it away?

  • 5
    The rules about what is allowed in the cabin are location-dependent. – fkraiem Jul 9 '16 at 0:43
  • Most airlines do offer metal cutlery to at least some of their passengers; I don't recall ever getting a plastic knife in a business cabin. Emirates offers it to all passengers on longhaul trips. – Calchas Jul 9 '16 at 11:00
  • When I travel, I pack spare cutlery for me and GF in my checked luggage with no problem – Max May 1 '17 at 1:09
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You are free to pack these with you in checked luggage (the items have to be sheathed or otherwise covered); the restriction is for carry-on luggage only.

Generally speaking, anything that can be used as a weapon is prohibited on board the aircraft.

In some places, the restrictions are more tough than others. In the US, for example, anything that can be used as or confused with a weapon is not allowed on board.

The TSA only prohibits knives (unless they are rounded or plastic butter knives). They do not have any restrictions on forks and spoons. This covers any airline flying to or from the US.

British Airways specifically prohibits knives longer than 6 cm (see this pdf dated March 2016).

Emirates prohibits "Knives of any kind, type, shape or size" (see this page).

There are no specific guidelines for eating utensils - the guidelines cover safety and security and are concentrated on those things that can be used to threaten or cause harm. As you can see, the rules are different for each airline. So it is best to check with the airline you plan on flying with for specifics.

It is worth mentioning that these rules may be subject to change, so it is recommended that one check before one's itinerary and look out for any specific placards / announcements at the airport.

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    I know you can get away with it in checked bags, but of course the point of this exercise (for me) is to have decent silverware on me at all times. I seem to remember getting away with a fork in the US, but I've had trouble with it in Brazil. It seems like the very durability that I want in silverware is the feature disqualifying it. – jdc Jul 9 '16 at 3:09
  • Did you try asking the crew for a different cutlery? I know most major airlines do carry silverware, but its for their business / first class passengers and usually only on their larger aircraft. If you are flying on a LCC or a small airplane, it may limit your options. – Burhan Khalid Jul 9 '16 at 19:38
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With regards to alternatives, how about carrying a spork? Some designs such as the Tritensil seem to get good reviews. You might want to look at some comparison sites for reviews, such as this one or this one.

Some more novel types of spork on Amazon:

  • Sorry about adding your 'spork' and internet sales to my answer only after you answered this question. – Willeke Jul 9 '16 at 13:05
  • @Willeke May the better answerer win! :) – Berwyn Jul 9 '16 at 13:06
  • My concern with sporks is the tines of the fork part potentially poking a hole in my bag and also the cleanliness of the utensil as it lives in the bag. Both are solved with the Light My Fire Sporks'n Case. It has become a permanent resident in my day bag even when not travelling. Handy tip: use a credit card to flip the closure open. – chx Apr 30 '17 at 21:36
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I often travel with a couple of plastic spoons and forks in my hand luggage, these usually live in my hand bag and nobody ever noticed them when going through security, not even when the contents of the bag was hand searched.
One item that did stand for good use for quite a time was a 'spork' that I got with a baked potato in Newcastle, UK. It did have a bowl like a spoon but with tines into it. So not good for soup but it did work well for many foods.

I mostly re-use good quality spoons and forks I get with take away food, but you can also buy a set in a camping or out-of-doors shop or on internet but you can not see the quality of the material that way.

If you are willing to do with a knife that is just good for pushing your food around, you can aquire one from all of the above sources.
A knife that will cut bread and soft meat should be on sale in a camping shop, get one with a rounded end, so security will not object. It should not be sharp enough to cut through skin.

There are sharp knives available that do not show up on security search machines, but those are often mentioned in the forbidden to take on board lists and might give you problems when found.
It might be best to get a box of cheap 'one use' plastic knives of the most sturdy kind and use those for one time each, have one in your carry-on and a few in your check-in luggage. I am not sure it meets your requirement of durable, it will at least not upset any security guard.

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There's been reports of some titanium sporks being taken away by TSA. They say the ones that feature a serrated cutting edge are the most at risk of being confiscated, even though 90% of the time they will let you carry it on. If you want to be 100% sure, try to find a utensil without a dedicated cutting edge, and you should be all good.

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