9 Ways Security Has Changed Since 9/11

Ten years ago, airport security was a simple stroll through a metal detector designed to thwart hijackers with guns. No more.

Hear FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney and editor Anne McDermott talk about worst airlines, eroding pilot skills and security changes after 9/ll.

For most of us, the only inconvenience was fumbling through pockets to dump out our change, or maybe removing a belt with a particularly large buckle. Then the twin towers came down.

Read “Are We Safer in the Air Since 9/11?”

Airport Security: 9 Changes

Today, airport security means nothing but hassles and it is much more time-consuming. A partial list of what has changed:

  1. Specific ID required; ID name must match name on ticket
  2. Shoes must be removed at checkpoints
  3. All baggage, carryon and checked, must be screened
  4. No liquids (above 3.4 ounces) allowed through checkpoints
  5. Special items must be pulled from luggage (laptops)
  6. Jackets, outwear must be removed
  7. Body scan machine screening
  8. Enhanced pat-downs
  9. No more non-ticketed visitors allowed at airline gates

One of the most obvious changes for is the need to arrive at the airport early; the days of jumping out of a taxi a few minutes before departure are as dead as those old Hertz TV commercials featuring O.J. Simpson racing through the airport.

Today, due to the long wait at security, many airlines recommend an early airport arrival; on the United Airlines website, for example, suggested airport arrival times include this recommendation for Los Angeles International: “Customers with checked baggage should arrive 2 hours before flight departure.”

Watch video of FareCompare’s Rick Seaney Getting a Body Scan and Enhanced Pat-down

TSA: Mistakes Happen

Perhaps the biggest change in security is the increase in the workforce; there are about 50,000 new federal employees including TSA agents and Sky Marshals since 9/11. Most of these men and women work hard, but mistakes happen.

This summer, a man was arrested after getting on a plane with a fake boarding pass; by then, he’d flown numerous times with other fake passes that were not only expired but not even in his name (and yes, his ID was no good, either). Those who hate the hassle of security point to such lapses as proof that our security in its current state is close to useless; others, suggest that many potential problems we don’t even know about have been averted by checkpoint officers. In any event, stricter security measures are here to stay.

Shoe Removal will Continue

There was a brief flurry of hope earlier this week when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stated, “I think one of the first things you will see over time is the ability to keep your shoes on.” Notice she said, over time. There was some quick backpedaling followed up by this more pointed observation: that the technology to scan passengers’ shoes for bombs does not yet exist. And by all accounts, such technology is not really expected anytime soon.

More from Rick Seaney:

Post 9/11 Security: When Increased Safety Isn’t Enough


Published: September 7, 2011