The Impact on Aviation Security and Commercial Air Travel Post 9/11
The events of September 11, 2001 forever changed air travel security measures. The level of security and the pre-screening for commercial flights was overwhelmingly lacking and was quite frankly, a disaster waiting to happen. The lessons the aviation industry learned because of the 9/11 attacks, propelled the nation into raising the standards of security at all airports in the United States, which was long overdue. As a result, we currently have in place a significantly safer, although not foolproof, air travel security system.
Great strides have been taken to stay a step-ahead of those whose aim is to invoke fear in the flying public. These efforts seek to prevent mass destruction with an aircraft-turned-missile ever again. Our country’s airport and airline security protocols pre-9/11 provided passengers with a false sense of protection. Passengers walked through metal detectors and their bags were subjected to x-ray screening since the 1960’s. Individuals who were not ticketed passengers were allowed to proceed through security as well, accompany friends and family members to the departure gate and watch the plane depart. Before the terrorist attacks the actual security access areas of our airports were not, truly “secure”. The access control of the airports was not as protected as the government had intended them to be. For example, Gerald Dillingham, Director of Civil Aviation Issues, reported to the National Commission on Terrorists Attacks upon the United States: "In May 2000, Department of Transportation Inspector General agents used fictitious law enforcement badges and credentials to gain access to secure areas, bypass security checkpoints at two airports, and walk unescorted to aircraft departure gates. These agents could have been carrying threats to the aircraft or its passengers. With their fake credentials, the agents were able to access secure areas 70% of the time” (Dillingham, Conference Speaker). At that time there were no real regulations with regards to employee or passenger background checks.
Procedures for airline employees have changed drastically, as well. Lynn Amaroso, a US Airways flight attendant, remembers a very different time for airline crews: “I can tell you this much--when I first started in the industry in 1986, employees were able to by-pass security all together. Even if I wasn't in uniform, I just had to flash my airline ID and walked around security” (Nov 2012). Today all airline employees are subjected to the same screening procedures as passengers; however, at most larger airports there are separate checkpoints designated solely for flight crewmembers to help expedite their way through the process so that they may begin required pre-flight checks and duties in preparation for passenger boarding.
One of the most visible changes at the airports has been the replacement of poorly-trained, low-paid security checkpoint screeners, with the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), a government operated agency created after 9/11. In 2001, airport security paid less than the starting salaries at airport fast-food restaurants. According to the TSA, federalizing airport security has lowered worker turnover from 125% per year to 6.4% (Segan 1).The implementation of the TSA has meant longer waits at security screening due to more thorough measures such as the use of metal detecting wands, pat-downs, and having passengers walk through machines (known as backscatters) that perform full body scans. The screening regimens used today are systematic and more detailed than in the past, aimed at providing safer air travel; however, passengers overwhelmingly feel this is an invasion of their privacy. Privacy issues, however, have taken a back seat to safety. After an alleged terrorist unsuccessfully tried to detonate his explosive underwear on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit in 2009, the scanning...
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