It is easy to get frustrated at the process a traveler must go through to get on an airplane to travel in today’s society. Prior to September 11, 2001, taking a flight to your favorite vacation destination or for business travel was much less complicated than it is currently. On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four airliners crashing all of them and this changed a lot about the airline industry. Those changes have caused huge inconveniences for travelers, but have made America a safer place and the goal is to never have a terrorist incident as horrific as 9/11 again.
Although the security implemented since 9/11 through the Transportation Safety Administration in the airline industry has made travel frustrating for people, there have been no major terrorist attacks involving airplanes since then indicating that air travel is much safer. It is hard to believe that almost eighteen years ago, airport travel was as easy as going to the grocery store. Private companies were in charge of airport screenings, not the government.
These workers were not well-trained or well-paid and turnover was high. Each airport was in charge of their own security measures, so all airports were not consistent with their procedures. A traveler could bring scissors, baseball bats and golf clubs into the airplane cabin with you. Full bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and hair spray were allowed in your carry-on luggage. Blades up to four inches could also be carried onto the airplane (O’ Conner 3). No one thought anything about it before 9/11. It seems crazy thinking now that people were allowed to carry these dangerous items on board back then! But, there had never been an event as horrific as 9/11 involving the airline industry. These changes were absolutely necessary despite how inconvenient and time consuming it is for travelers.What passengers don’t realize is that there is so much more going on behind the scenes to protect their safety while traveling. In November 2001, two months after the terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York, the Pentagon and a failed attempt at most likely another government building resulting in a downed plane in Pennsylvania, the Transportation Safety Administration was created by the United States Department of Homeland Security. This was a result of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act that gave the federal government the direct responsibility for all passenger screenings at airports. This was a task that had previously been outsourced to private security companies (O’Connor 4). Sixty thousand workers were hired to be TSA agents. These potential employees had to be carefully screened and trained to ensure the safety of passengers going forward. Immediately, these TSA workers began to inspect every bag for any illegal item a passenger may be attempting to carry onto an airplane. About a year later, the TSA implemented explosive detection systems that screened all bags for explosives and has continued to install even more advanced technology since then including the full body scanner every passenger must pass through prior to being cleared to proceed to their departure gate. TSA workers are specially trained to look for suspicious activity among passengers such as exaggerated yawning, gazing down, widely open eyes, rubbing and wringing of hands, and wearing improper attire for their location (O’Connor 4). Unfortunately, the TSA was recently required to publish this list of behaviors after the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against them claiming that they were targeting African American women more than others to be patted down due to their hair. Although these behaviors don’t always indicate a person exhibiting them is dangerous, it does give the agents a guideline to detect possible threats. A passenger has to basically be prepared to be an open book when entering an airport facility. TSA agents have master keys to suitcase locks under the agreement with Safe Skies Luggage Locks and Travel Sentry so that if they need into a suitcase, they do not have to cut the lock off (Security 2). Keeping checked luggage, carry-on and even personal items such as purses neatly packed helps TSA agents to get those items through the screening process quicker. An unorganized piece of luggage takes more time to inspect and can slow down safety inspection even more. Some passengers are pre-selected to go through a more rigorous safety screening and may be pulled aside and subject to a pat down. TSA officers may use the back of their hands for pat downs to sensitive areas of the body and a passenger will always be patted down by an agent of the same gender. While this is a necessary procedure to ensure everyone’s safety, this is an embarrassing event for most people, and some may even consider it an invasion of their privacy. Air travel is safer now because the TSA is constantly monitoring for potential threats. Passenger lists are runs through databases to make sure no one has been identified as a threat. Air marshals are present on high risk flights. Cockpit doors are now reinforced to resist bullets and are locked during flight so that no one can enter and overtake the pilot. Pilots are armed to help protect their passengers. Passengers are also a big help in reporting suspicious behaviors to authorities. A trip to the airport pre-9/11 consisted of arriving at the airport 30 minutes prior to flight time, parking the car, checking the luggage and heading to the departure gate. Family members were allowed to accompany travelers to the gate area to wish them well and were allowed to greet them at the gate upon return. All the necessities could be brought on board with a traveler and no thought had to be put into packing carry-on luggage as it does today. Now, a trip to the airport is very time consuming and stressful. A traveler must be aware that they need to arrive at the airport two hours prior to their flight and three hours prior if they are taking an international flight in order to get through the security process prior to boarding. They must be very careful while packing their carryon luggage due to regulations implemented to insure nothing that can be used as a weapon is contained in carryon luggage. Liquids above 3.4 ounces are not even allowed in your carry-on luggage (Trainer 1). There are a couple of exceptions for baby formulas and medications, as these items are a necessity to have on board. Every airport, big or small, post 9/11, has to follow the same safety procedures. This provides consistency across the United States and helps keep travelers safe. Security officials give personal attention to each traveler with a boarding pass. Travelers must remove their jewelry, jackets, hats and everything from their pockets before proceeding through security (Trainer 1). Shoes even have to be removed! This is such an inconvenience and almost humiliating at times. All items including phones, purses, and other personal belongings must take a trip through the x-ray machine to be screened carefully by a TSA agent. Due to the time it takes to complete this process and the individual attention given to the thorough screening of each passenger, lines can become long with passengers getting easily frustrated and not realizing that the end goal is their safety while at the airport as well as while they are in the air. After 9/11, people involved in the aviation industry knew that their industry would never be the same again. At that time, they didn’t know exactly how much it would change, but they knew that the industry the way they had always known it was forever gone. If terrorists were able to take down four passenger planes, causing the loss of human life, and the destruction of American property as they did, there was no way the airline way of life was ever going to be the same. Would people be confident enough in their own security to even board a flight again? Antony Tyler, Director of the International Air Transport Association, states that the impact of 9/11 on the airline industry was a $22 billion drop in revenue (1). September 11 also slowed down the growth of the airline industry for a few years. Many airlines went bankrupt due to the decline in the use of air travel. Travelers were not confident in their safety in the air and found alternative means of travel. The government was forced to provide compensation to the airline industry in order to help it from collapsing as well as loan guarantees for the future of the industry.Safer air travel has come at a cost to travelers. Airports have become restricted to be more secure and include areas for the TSA to screen passengers. Full body and x-ray scanners have been added to the security process to detect potential explosives. This added equipment and the additional employees needed to run the equipment and screen passengers, are an added cost passed on to the passengers. After near bankruptcy for several airlines after September 11 due to decreased air travelers, airlines were forced to pass even more fees onto the travelers such as luggage fees, seat fees, and fuel surcharges. The added luggage fees have caused more travelers to take carry-on luggage in order to avoid paying extra which has caused more of a delay in security lines due to having more luggage to screen. Airlines added more seats onto planes making travel less comfortable and took away free snacks and drinks during flights. Travelers are assessed a 9/11 security fee on every ticket purchased to help offset the costs incurred by the TSA. While all these costs are yet another downside for potential travelers, they are necessary for continued security and for the airlines to survive. The TSA is well aware of the inconvenience that all of the increased safety procedures since 9/11 has put upon airline passengers. They are constantly evaluating and revising their processes to try and make the procedures for travelers more streamlined and make air travel an enjoyable event. Some travelers still feel that the safety procedures implemented since 9/11 are more hassle than they are worth and chose alternative methods of travel. Knowing that two to three hours are added onto the flight time for security measures, is just not something some feel is worth it. In order to make the airport experience more positive and less frustrating for a traveler, the future, according to Tyler, is that the bulk of data on travelers will be analyzed prior to arrival at the airport and travelers will simply walk through a checkpoint that will detect any harmful substances without even stopping, stripping, or having to inconveniently unload your items onto a conveyor belt (1). Prior to September 11, 2001, many terrorist attacks were targeted at the airline industry, but were not as significant as the attack on 9/11 because of the vast number of lives impacted. More than 2,700 lives were taken and more than 6,000 people were injured during this attack (September 1). It damaged countless buildings in New York City costing millions of dollars to repair and rebuild. This event was the most devastating terrorist attack involving the airline industry and resulted in the many security changes implemented in the airline industry. Although the process of travel has become more time consuming and a hassle to travelers since 9/11, it has proven to be a success. Post 9/11, the number of people killed due to airline attacks has greatly decreased as compared to Pre 9/11. Hundreds of passengers lost their lives prior to September 11, 2001 due to terrorist acts on flights (History 1), but those acts never garnered the attention to change security procedures like the events of September 11. The massive attack that day made Americans open their eyes and realize that there was no other answer. There have been several failed attempts upon airlines by terrorists since 9/11. Those failed attempts have helped the TSA learn where additional revisions need to be made in security procedures and have also proven that the changes made since 9/11 have been successful. Have there been problems with the system along the way? Of course there has. In January, 2010 a TSA agent left his post, an unauthorized person entered to kiss his girlfriend goodbye and the entire airport was shut down due to this breach. In February 2012, a stranded kayaker scaled a fence at JFK airport and entered the runway causing a breach in security. In October 2012, twenty-five screeners were fired due to sleeping on the job. In February 2013, an undercover agent carried a fake bomb in his pants into the airport and in April 2014 a teenager stowed away in the wheel of a jet and flew from San Francisco to Hawaii undetected (Security Degree Hub, 2019). Yes, problems still occur, but for every problem that occurs, good comes out of it as the TSA learns how to make travelers safer. No one hears about all the potential passengers who are not allowed to fly because they are deemed dangerous and no one hears about all the unauthorized items seized from persons prior to boarding. There are going to be flaws and learning curves with any safety procedures implemented, but the overall safety that has taken place since 9/11 proves that current processes by the TSA are successful. The economic impact of 9/11 costs billions of dollars including cleanup, loss of buildings, subways, damage to other structures nearby, insurance claims, and the decline in future air travel to name a few. In order to prevent this from happening again, changes were necessary. These changes cause much frustration among travelers. Careful planning while packing, early arrival times at the airport and embarrassing searches and pat downs at the airport are what travelers are faced with when they choose traveling by air. It is frustrating, but travelers should be patient and support airport safety procedures implemented since 9/11 because it has insured safer travel and less terrorist attacks have occurred on airlines. No one benefits more from these safety procedures than the travelers. Is a traveler’s safety worth the extra time it takes to maneuver through long security lines? Absolutely! Travelers can board an airplane with the confidence of knowing that there are no potential weapons aboard and they are safe from a terrorist attack.Works CitedChristensen, Mike. (2019). Airline Industry Turbulence. CQ Researcher, 1-40.Does airport security make us safer? make-us-safer. Accessed 10 April 2019.History Central. Terror History. Bart. USA Today. Hijackings rare after 9/11 security improvements. improvements/82375474/. 29 March 2016. Accessed 2 April 2019.Katel, Peter. (2009). Homeland Security. CQ Researcher, 131-137. Lemarque, Kevin. This Is What It Was Like To Go To The Airport Before 9/11. 11 Sept. 2006, www.huffpost.com/entry/airport-before-911_n_57c85e17e4b078581f11a133.Security Screening. Transportation Security Administration. n.d. Accessed 6 April 2019.September 11 Terrorist Attacks Fast Facts. 11-.anniversary fast-facts/index.html. Accessed 22 April 2019Smerconish, Michael A. Flying Blind. Philadelphia-London, Running Press, 2004.Sweet, Kathleen M. Aviation and Airport Security, Terrorism and Safety Concerns. New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2004.Trainer, Paul. Skyscanner. How Airport Security has changed since 9/11. 21 March 2017. Accessed 5 April 2019.Tyler, Anthony. IATA. The Impact of September 11, 2001 on Aviation. Accessed 5 April 2019.