The Ways Travel has Changed Since 9/11



The Ways Travel has Changed Since 9/11

In the 20 years since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, much has changed in the travel sector.

And for good reason – travel was the vehicle by which the terrorists conducted their atrocities.

From that moment on the travel sector changed dramatically, to the point where U.S. News and World Report noted that an entire generation of people have no idea what travel was like prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

Here are several ways travel has changed since the 9/11 attacks.

The Creation of the TSA

The Transportation Security Administration was created in the wake of the attacks and was operational just two months later in November of 2001. The federal agency, in effect,nationalized airport security. Today, there are more than 50,000 TSA agents working at airports nationally.

The TSA is fallible. We have seen that with complaints about how some passengers have been inappropriately patted down and other complaints. More importantly, in 2015 an undercover sting by the Department of Homeland Security revealed that in 70 different instances at seven major airports, TSA agents failed to find fake explosives and weapons – including one strapped to the back of one of the undercover investigators – a whopping 67 times.

No Shoes, No Belts

In December of 2001, a man by the name of Richard Reid tried to ignite an explosive device that he had hidden in the sneakers he wore on the plane. From that point on, travelers had to take off their shoes and belts while going through security checkpoints.

Liquid Changes

A similar incident to the Richard Reid saga saw airports ban passengers from carrying any liquids more than 3.4 ounces through security.

Longer Lines

The increased emphasis on security has led to longer lines and longer waits to get through security checkpoints at airlines. Prior to 20 years ago, passengers could easily show up at the airport a half-hour before their flight left, get their boarding pass, check luggage and go through security and still make a flight time. Fortunately, with programs like Pre-Check, there are options.


Travelers wait in the airport security line. (photo by Eric Bowman)

Send Offs at the Gate Disappear

That romantic goodbye at the gate? The heartfelt hug? The long embrace? No more. Unless you are a ticketed passenger, for the most part, you cannot go through security and on to the gates, although that is being relaxed at some airports.

Updated Technology

We no longer arrive at the airport to stand in line to check-in and drop luggage. These days, you can use airport kiosks to check-in and get a boarding pass, to drop your luggage, or even download a boarding pass on your smartphone.

Airline Consolidation and Bailouts

One long-term repercussion of the attacks has been the consolidation of airlines. Delta merged with Northwest in 2008, Continental morphed into United in 2012, and American bought out US Airways in 2013.

We Appreciate Travel More

Between the Sept. 11 attacks 20 years ago and the current coronavirus pandemic, we, for the most part, appreciate travel even more. Yes, it’s a hassle to fly, it’s a hassle to be squeezed into seats that are practically on top of each other, and yes it’s far more time-consuming. But when it is taken away from us, we fully grasp its meaning and its place in our lives whether it’s for business or pleasure

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