New York City 9/11 Memorial
How airport security has changed What this means for travelers The future

On Sept. 11, 2001, airport security was a simple stroll through a metal detector designed to thwart hijackers with guns. Then the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City came down, an act of terror that changed almost everything – including how we fly.

How Airport Security Has Changed Since 9/11

Today, airport security is a time-consuming slog through the airport, but most of us have gotten used to it. The biggest change took place just months after 9/11, with the creation of the Transportation Security Administration or TSA which helps guard U.S. airports. Other changes include:

  1. Identification requirements: ID must be presented, name must match ticket
  2. Shoe removal: Most travelers must remove shoes at checkpoints
  3. Baggage: All baggage whether carry-on and checked must be screened
  4. Liquid ban: No liquids allowed through security in containers larger than 3.4 ounces
  5. Special items: Most travelers must remove toiletries and laptops from bags
  6. Jackets: Most travelers must remove outerwear during screening
  7. Enhanced pat-downs: This extra screening is sometimes administered
  8. No welcome committees: Only ticketed travelers are now allowed at airline gate areas
  9. Cockpit doors: These have been reinforced and stay locked during flights

What This Means for Passengers

The TSA has slowed the process of getting on a plane, requiring all passengers to pass through security checkpoints before going to the gate.

  • Long lines at security: Perhaps the biggest change for passengers is the need to arrive at the airport at least an hour before departure time for domestic flights and two or three hours early for international travel.

In recent years though, one TSA program has made the lines a little easier.

  • TSA PreCheck Program: In 2011, the TSA developed the PreCheck program; it allows travelers to register in advance (which requires specific ID and fingerprinting) for a faster security experience and you can learn more about it here. PreCheck allows members to keep their shoes on, keep toiletries and laptops in their bags, while using a dedicated PreCheck-only lane.

The Future

It all depends on the world situation, which is ever-changing. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, there was talk of easing up on some of the rules, but little has changed. We can only hope – and continue to arrive at the airport well in advance of take-off.