The Change in Airport Security since 9/11

Terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, became the critical event in the modern American history affecting the national identity. While being a human tragedy for the civic population, 9/11 attacks revealed the power of international terrorism to the global community as well as indicated areas for improvement in airline security. Prior to September attacks, American airlines used to pay little concern for military experience and security skills of persons employed as security screeners. Most of them lacked knowledge and abilities to detect possible threats of weapons, such as bombs, guns, cutting devices, and airborne pathogens, when screening passengers and their luggage. The then security realm did not prioritize the importance of continuous training and development of security staff.

Besides, low wages and minor benefits associated with airport security employment enforced airline operators to hire inexperienced and unskilled workforce. High turnover rates contributed to the low preparation and performance of security screeners. Until September 11th attacks, those airport security issues were underestimated and almost ignored.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks targeted the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the two most remarkable buildings in the United States. Apart from the destruction caused, the events killed thousands of civilians being at those building at the moment of the attack along with airplane passengers, pilots, and people involved professionally and voluntary in rescue operations. In the aftermath of 9/11 attacks, security became subject to extensive discussions in the government and the public. New security guidelines made protection against terrorism the top security priority. New requirements for airline security prescribed checks of 750,000 airport workers for criminal background, allocation of a greater number of air marshals on flights, strengthening of passenger screening, including cross-checking with FBI for suspicious passengers, obligatory X-ray baggage screening complemented with hand inspection (Taylor & Steedman, 2003).

The new perspective on airline security resulted in the change in recruitment of airport employees related to security aspects. Since 9/11, only federal workers are eligible to security screening and other security-related positions, as they are trained and prepared for inspecting baggage with various inspection machines and technique to guarantee detection of security threats. Along with employing skillful and competent security labor force and utilization of specialized devices and equipment, the post-9/11 airline security practices a more comprehensive process of passenger inspection. The list of passenger screening requirements includes:

  • The match of passenger’s ID with the name on the ticket;
  • Outerwear removal during screening;
  • Shoe removal at checkpoints;
  • Obligatory screening of any carried-out baggage;
  • Screening of laptops and toiletries at checkpoints;
  • Prohibition for holding liquid in containers exceeding 3.5 ounces;
  • Ban for non-ticked airport attendees at airline gate areas;
  • Extra screening.

Furthermore, new security regulations set up confiscation for carrying out prohibited items, such as inflammables, knives, firearms, etc. (Elias, 2009).

Since these security requirements were introduced quickly after 9/11 attacks, the airline industry has experienced considerable changes related to security concerns. Millions of prohibited items were confiscated, dozens thousands of federal workers and competent employees were recruited, thousands of new flight marshals were appointed, and diversified security equipment and devices were purchased and integrated. September 11th attacks showed that a single passenger might be as dangerous as a weapon. In this respect, the resent-day security regulation limit air travelers to one bag and a personal item, such as briefcase or purse. Carried-on baggage is subject to careful inspection with specific screening machines and dogs compared to hand screening, which prevailed prior to 9/11 events. With the prioritized value of security, airports have lost any social discourse. Today, it is not allowed seeing the relative or friend to the gate and watching the plane departure. Only passengers with tickets are allowed to the gate through the screening checkpoints.


Elias, B. (2009). Airport and aviation security: U. S. policy and strategy in the age of global terrorism. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Taylor, A. B., & Steedman, S. (2003). The evolution of airline security since 9/11. International Foundation for Protection Officers. Retrieved from

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