Tracing the biggest changes in airport protocol


Just about everyone knows that September 11, 2001 forever changed our world, bringing a greater focus on security, especially in relation to how we travel.

Before the attacks instilled the nation with fear, getting onto a plane was much simpler, requiring a quick pass through a metal detector. Today, airport screenings are far more advanced and time consuming, providing greater safety and security to travelers.


Airport Security Has Changed Drastically

Today, travelers are advised to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before their flight is scheduled to depart. Partly, this is so you’ll have time to check your baggage, get your tickets, and make one last bathroom stop. For the most part, however, the extra time is eaten up by the security screenings.

Following 9/11, the government introduced the Transportation Security Administration, a division of the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. TSA officers are tasked with conducting security screenings and ensuring our airports and planes are safe from terrorist attacks. Over time, they have also been charged with enforcing these new regulations for air travel:

  • I.D. must be presented at ticket purchase and must match the name on the ticket
  • Shoes must be removed at security checkpoints
  • All baggage (including carry ons) must be screened
  • No liquid with a quantity of 3.4 ounces or greater is permitted on airplanes
  • Toiletries, laptops, and other special items must be removed from bags for screening
  • Jackets cannot be worn for screenings
  • Some travelers are subjected to additional physical pat-downs
  • No visitors are allowed past the screening areas
  • Cockpit doors have been fortified and remain secure during the flight


Lightening the Load

These new regulations have resulted in longer lines at check in points and extended wait times. The efficiency of travel has been affected to the point that TSA has implemented new protocols to ease that burden.

In 2011, the agency instituted the TSA PreCheck Program, which lets travelers register early for their security screening. They must submit an ID and fingerprints, but the process allows them to get expedited service through the airport screening process on the day of travel. Additionally, the PreCheck system lets travelers keep their shoes on and doesn’t require them to remove their toiletries and laptops from their bags. These passengers go through a special PreCheck lane, when they show up for their screening and are able to move through the process much faster.