Airport Security, Essay Example


Prior to the 9/11 terror attacks, airport security merely consisted of a serious of questions: did you pack your own bag, had that bag been in your possession all day, and whether or not any strangers had asked you to carry anything aboard the plane for them. After these serious of questions, one would just walk through a metal detector and board his/her flight. As a result of 9/11 terrorist attacks, sharp or pointed objects, box cutters, and other cutting tools have been banned on international and domestic flights. As early as 2002, all bags were checked for explosive devices. By 2004, new mandated regulations require all passengers’ jackets be x-rayed regardless to if the metal detector was activated during the scan. Customers are often asked to remove their shoes, especially if they had steel shanks that would trigger detectors. The list goes on and on and potentially agitates some customers. In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the federal government enacted many laws to ensure the safety of all fliers. President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act on November 19, 2001. This act started a new Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The two chief deviations in airport security noticeable to customers were the federalization of customer safety screening at all U.S. commercial airports by November 19, 2002, and the requirement to begin screening all checked baggage by December 31, 2002 (Blalock, G., Vrinda K., & Simon, D., 2005). As a result of new technology and the implementation of heightened security measures airports are much safer than they were prior to 9/11.


The formation of the TSA has led to many regulations and more freedoms for airport security staff. The TSA staff members are now allowed to open carry-on baggage, something they were unable to do before 9/11. They are able to open baggage without permission of the owner, and can even destroy locks to do so. The TSA requires all liquids to be no more than 3.4 ounces. No sports equipment such as golf clubs, baseball bats, etc. is allowed in carry-on luggage. Nonetheless, parents traveling with small children are allowed a little more leniency when it comes to carrying on items. The TSA also requires fliers with certain medical needs to bring a doctor’s note to be able to board the plane with certain medicines. Although regulations from the TSA may cause an inconvenience, those regulations provide safety for fliers. For example, “Security at America’s airports was fairly relaxed before terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jets.  There were no federal requirements for baggage screening or much in-flight security.  You could even greet loved ones at the gate.” (Mueller, 2004).


The enhancement of technology is helping to increase safety in airports. For example, “Airports are using new technologies, like refined X-ray backscatter equipment, which enables intimate searching of a passenger without the need for them to strip or be stripped by federal agents”. Prospective new sensors will be able identify potentially dangerous individuals who have residual explosive residue on their clothing or luggage. As a result, potential bombers will not be able to enter airports.  “These portable sensors could be used outside of the airport itself to identify dangerous individuals or vehicles before they get close enough to do damage.” (Mueller, 2004).  Also, European researchers are developing onboard surveillance systems, including sensors and video cameras in the cabin. “The setup may also include sophisticated software that would analyze passengers’ facial expressions and movements for suspicious behavior” (Mueller, 2004). It is estimated that the federal government spent 259 million dollars on port security efforts in the year following the 9/11 tragedy; by 2005 the federal government had been spending 1.6 billion dollars per year, and that number has increased under the Obama Administration.

Practical Changes

There are many practical changes that fliers must face since 9/11. One of the most obvious and annoying changes that fliers face now is that they are required to check in at least two hours before the flight is scheduled to depart. There are numerous restrictions on what fliers are allowed to bring on board their flight. All liquids and toiletries must meet size specifications and be placed in see through bags. Fliers are no longer allowed to carry bottled water or food through security check points. All passengers are subject to be selected for more intense screenings. Since 9/11, the airport has completed searches and screenings with new equipment. As a result of 9/11, passenger airplanes have been equipped with reinforced cockpit doors. Poole says, “Airlines have reinforced cockpit doors and modified operational procedures to strongly limit access to the cockpit. Regardless of the method used, these steps mean that it is much more difficult, although not impossible, to commandeer an airplane and conduct an attack similar to that launched on 9/11” (Poole, 2009).  Thousands of federal air marshals are assigned to flights on a daily basis. The No Fly list has grown extensively. All of this new security means longer wait time for fliers. Twelve years later, customers have become more familiar with new security protocol, which means wait times are not quite as length as they were immediately after the 9/11 tragedy.

Impact on Americans

The attacks on September 11 had a great impact on the American people. Although the incident was a horrible tragedy, some positive changes came about as a result. It is very difficult for one to look back and understand how it was possible for something of such magnitude to happen in America-the great melting pot of acceptance and understanding. As a result of the attack, many security measures have been adopted. Frequent fliers are annoyed by some of them, but are willing to accept and cooperate with officials because they understand the importance of such measures.


Blalock, G., Vrinda K., & Simon, D.  (2005). The impact of post 9/11 airport security measures.  Working paper, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Mueller, J. (2004). A false sense of security. Regulations, 37(3), 42-46.

Poole, R. (2009). The case for risk-based aviation security policy. World Customs, 3(2) 36-49