How Easy Air Travel Entire Generation Of Americans

How Easy Air Travel Entire Generation Of Americans

In the mid-1990s, I travel twice a month between Dayton, Ohio, to Washington, D.C. as half of a commuting pair. I could leave Dayton at 5:15 p.m. and drive almost 80 miles to Columbus during rush hour. Once there, I was able to park my car in an economy lot and get to my gate by 7:30 p.m. Then, 9/11 occurred.

Terrorist attacks quickly and permanently changed the American air travel experience. After 20 years of more complex airport security protocols, many passengers don’t know or have only vague memories about what air travel was like prior to 9/11. I have studied the history and security of American airports and can recall how they were protected before 9/11.

It’s also been quite jarring to see how abruptly the Transportation Security Agency system was established – and how quickly American travellers accepted those security measures as normal and seemingly permanent features at all U.S. airports

Security Kabuki Travel

Airport security was virtually non-existent in the early years of air travel. It was the same as getting on a train or bus to board a plane. In the 1960s and 1970s there were a lot of terrorist attacks, hijackings, and extortion attempts. The most famous being D.B. Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727 and demanded US$200,000. He then parachuted off the plane without ever being found.

Attacks on U.S. aircraft usually led to another security measure. This included the creation of an air marshal program that placed armed federal agents aboard U.S. commercial planes; the creation of a hijacker profile which aimed at identifying individuals deemed likely threats to aircrafts; and the screening of all passengers. The new protocols required that air travellers pass through a metal detector by 1973 and have their bags X-rayed for suspicious objects or weapons.

Travel Designed To Calm Nervous

These measures were designed to calm nervous flyers. They also served as security theatre to ensure that passengers could get from check-in to gate quickly. Domestic travel was easy. You could arrive at the airport terminal between 20 and 30 minutes prior to your flight to still make it to the gate in the time necessary to board. Friends and families could accompany travellers to their gate for take off, and then meet them at their gate upon return.

Airline passengers were the most important thing to consider. Airports didn’t want any inconvenience and they weren’t willing to lose the additional revenue from their family and friends, who may frequent airport bars, restaurants, and shops when picking up or dropping off passengers.

These security measures, even though required by the Federal Aviation Administration were not cover by the federal government but were instead the responsibility of the airlines. To keep costs low, airlines often contracted private companies to perform security screenings using minimally-trained and low-paid employees.

The Clampdown

All of that was change by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It was obvious that flying would be different after the airlines returned to the skies in September 2001. Armed military personnel greeted passengers arriving at airports. Governors across the country had mobilized National Guard troops to protect their airports. They remained on alert for several months.

Security measures were heighten when Richard Reid the Shoe Bomber attempted to detonate explosives in his shoes during an international flight between Paris and Miami in December 2001. Before you can go through security, it is a must that your shoes are remove.

In 2006, British officials intercepted a plan to transport liquid explosives on a flight. This led to a ban of all liquids. Later, this ban was modify to limit liquids to 3.4 ounces. The full-body scanner was a common sight at American airports by 2010.

According to a 2019 study, the average time it took to clear security at the country’s busiest airports was just over 23 minutes at Newark Liberty and 16.3 minutes at Seattle Tacoma. However, this could rise to 60 minutes or 34 minutes during peak hours at these same airports.

The federal government was responsible for enforcing these new security measures. The Transportation Security Agency was establish by Congress in November 2001. By the beginning of 2002, the agency’s employees were the face of transportation security across the United States. They could found at airports, railroads, subways, and other modes of transportation. Today, there are more than 50,000 TSA agents.