Some of the effects of 9/11 in United States Airports

Some of the effects of 9/11 in United States Airports

The tragic September 11, 2001 is unfortunately remembered by people around the globe, especially by airport frequent travelers. In the past the process of going through airport security was very simple and it was limited to maybe taking off your shoes or removing a belt with a big buckle. It was actually a quick process. After 9/11 things changed drastically. Airports felt the impact first hand as security increased to ensure safety for passengers, crew members and aircrafts.  Airport security checks became a tedious thing and a long process with many necessary regulations to follow in order to get into the plane and many policies changed or were created in order to make airports and airplanes safer.

The most important change in airport security was the creation of the TSA, Transportation Security Administration. The TSA was created as a response to the 9/11 attacks because it was thought that it was better for only one agency to control air travel around the USA. Although the TSA is responsible for the security in highways, railroads, buses, mass transit systems, pipelines and ports, their biggest efforts are focused on airports and specifically on passenger and baggage screening.

A very controversial change or addition to airport security was the behavior detection security program and its Behavior Detection officers, also known as BDOs. The idea is that officers are placed near the security check points in order to speak with each and every person at the security line by asking them two or three questions to analyze their answers and look for behavior patterns that may lead them to identify suspicious travelers.

The Advanced Imaging Technology is a new thing after the sad 9/11. It was a controversial issue because people didn’t like to be scanned and showed in a screen and it was believed that the radiation could cause cancer. In Fact, many pilots didn’t agree with the policy due to their exposure to radiation. The new technology is now less invasive and shows a silhouette of the person instead of full body images.

The old x ray machines were replaced by a new technology for explosive detectors. Before 9/11 only these types of machines did the job but there are now replacing them and adding machines with scent detectors as well.  They are extensively used in the baggage area to easily detect explosive levels in the suitcases and luggage.

Shoe screening is one of the things that all the air travelers take for granted and are used to in any Unites States airport. The curious thing is that before 9/11 this was a not a mandatory rule and after the Richard Colvin Reid a.k.a. the “Shoe Bomber” case, where he pleaded guilty and explained  that he had planned to get into a plane and detonate a bomb hidden in his shoe in 2002, regulations got even harder. These two incidents led airport policies to focus on shoe screening as a vital part of the security line procedure.

Seeing dogs or trained dogs at the airports is a daily bread.  Very few airports lack a trained dog and after 9/11 almost any airport in the USA has a trained dog to detect explosives when a strange package is left behind or when there are suspicious suitcases. It could seem as a normal thing, but before 9/11 dogs were used only in extreme cases and only when needed.

Another security measure that changed was a stricter physical screening. The measure was brought down in 2010 after heavy opposition from passengers. At the moment only suspicious baggage or cabin baggage is manually checked if the passenger claims forbidden products or larger amounts of liquid in order to rule out possible threats to passengers, crew member and aircraft.


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Image courtesy of Globovisión at

Before 9/11, it was very common to place a lock on your luggage in case it was going to be opened or robbed. People always got a little scared when they saw their locked opened or ruined. After 9/11, locks are no longer allowed in the suitcases as luggage can be manually screened. Only TSA accepted and recognized locks are allowed to be placed on luggage and screeners have the adequate tools to open and re-lock these locks.


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Image courtesy of Neville Hobson at

9/11 was one of the most shocking events in the history of American aviation. Everybody remembers that day and a lot of things changed around the world. As for airport security measures, they became harder and more severe, even a bit annoying for passengers, but necessary. Nowadays airports are a very safe place and terrorism is highly controlled by authorities that are alert 24/7 for possible suspects and suspicious behaviors. There have not been many incidents related to terrorism and airport security, although it is always better to be aware and report any strange incidents to the authorities.



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