Airport security repercussions due to the September 11 attacks

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After the September 11 attacks, questions were raised regarding the effectiveness of airport security at the time, as all 19 hijackers involved in 9/11 managed to pass existing checkpoints and board the airplanes without incident. In the months and years following September 11, 2001, security at many airports worldwide was escalated to deter similar terrorist plots.[1]

Changes in airport security[edit]

Prior to September 11, 2001, airport screening was provided in the U.S. by private security companies contracted by the airline or airport. In November 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was introduced to take over all of the security functions of the FAA, the airlines, and the airports.[1] Among other changes introduced by TSA, bulletproof and locked cockpit doors became standard on commercial passenger aircraft.[2]

In some countries, for example, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, there were no or only random security checks for domestic flights in 2001 and before that.[3] On or quickly after September 11, decisions were made to introduce full security checks there. It was immediately implemented where possible,[3] but took one to two years to implement everywhere since terminals were often not prepared with room for it.

Improved security on aircraft[edit]

Cockpit doors on many aircraft are reinforced and bulletproof to prevent unauthorized access.[4] Passengers are now prohibited from entering the cockpit during flight. Some aircraft are also equipped with CCTV cameras, so the pilots can monitor cabin activity. Pilots are now allowed to carry firearms, but they must be trained and licensed. In the U.S., more air marshals have been placed on flights to improve security.

Improved security screening[edit]

On September 11, hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, and Nawaf al-Hazmi all set off the metal detector. Despite being scanned with a hand-held detector, the hijackers were passed through. Security camera footage later showed some hijackers had what appeared to be box cutters clipped to their back pockets.[5] Box cutters and similar small knives were allowed on board certain aircraft at the time.

Airport checkpoint screening has been significantly tightened since 2001, and security personnel are more thoroughly trained to detect weapons or explosives. In addition to standard metal detectors, many U.S. airports now employ full-body scanning machines, in which passengers are screened with millimeter wave technology to check for potential hidden weapons or explosives on their persons.[citation needed] Initially, early body scanners provoked quite a bit of controversy because the images produced by the machines were deemed graphic and intrusive. Many considered this an invasion of personal privacy, as TSA screeners were essentially shown an image of each passenger's naked body. Newer body scanners have since been introduced which do not produce an image, but rather alert TSA screeners of areas on the body where an unknown item or substance may be hidden. A TSA security screener then inspects the indicated area(s) manually.[6]

Identification checks[edit]

On September 11, some hijackers lacked proper identification, yet they were allowed to board due to being on domestic aircraft. After 9/11, all passengers 18 years or older, must now have valid government-issued identification in order to fly. Airports may check the ID of any passenger (and staff member) at any time to ensure the details on the ID match those on the printed boarding pass. Only under exceptional circumstances may an individual fly without a valid ID. If approved for flying without an ID, the individual will be subject to extra screening of their person and their carry-on items.[citation needed] TSA does not have the capability to conduct background checks on passengers at checkpoints. Sensitive areas in airports, including airport ramps and operational spaces, are restricted from the general public. Called a SIDA (Security Identification Display Area) in the U.S., these spaces require special qualifications to enter.[7]

A European Union regulation demanded airlines make sure that the individual boarding the aircraft is the same individual who checked in his or her luggage;[8] this was implemented by verifying an individual's identification both at luggage check-in and when boarding.

Some countries also fingerprint travellers or use retina and iris scanning to help detect potential criminals. [9]


With regard to the 2015 Germanwings flight 9525 crash incident, a suicide by pilot where the captain was unable to regain access to the flight deck, some have stated that security features added to commercial airliners after 9/11 actually work against the safety of such planes.[10]


In 2003, John Gilmore sued United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, arguing that requiring passengers to show identification before boarding domestic flights is tantamount to an internal passport, and is unconstitutional.[11][12] Gilmore lost the case, known as Gilmore v. Gonzales, and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Seidenstat, Paul (May 2004). "Terrorism, Airport Security, and the Private Sector". Review of Policy Research. doi:10.1111/j.1541-1338.2004.00075.x.
  2. ^ "Transportation Security Timeline | Transportation Security Administration". Retrieved 2020-11-01.
  3. ^ a b Höjd säkerhet på flyget Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine ( 12 sep 2001) (Swedish)
  4. ^ "Jet cockpit doors nearly impossible to open by intruders". 26 March 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-05-13. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  5. ^ "The 9/11 Commission Report" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-10-19. Retrieved 2013-12-20.
  6. ^ "Guns..." PMP | 2019-08-06. Retrieved 2020-11-01.
  7. ^ "SIDA and AOA Badge Identification Requirements | Montrose County - Official Website". Retrieved 2020-11-01.
  8. ^ Regulation (EC) No 2320/2002 ... common rules in the field of civil aviation security
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-02-14. Retrieved 2018-02-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Yu, Yijun (26 March 2015). "Germanwings flight 4U9525: a victim of the deadlock between safety and security demands". The Conversation. Archived from the original on 2015-04-29. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  11. ^ Julia Scheeres, "Judge to Hear Air ID Challenge" Archived 2012-10-20 at the Wayback Machine, Wired News, 2003-01-18
  12. ^ Ryan Singel, "Flight ID Fight Revived" Archived 2013-06-17 at the Wayback Machine, Wired News, 2004-08-16