Airport security repercussions due to the September 11 attacks

Last updated

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

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

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

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

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

Related Research Articles

American Airlines Flight 77 9/11 hijacked passenger flight; hit the Pentagon

American Airlines Flight 77 was a scheduled American Airlines domestic transcontinental passenger flight from Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, to Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. The Boeing 757-223 aircraft serving the flight was hijacked by five Saudi men affiliated with al-Qaeda on the morning of September 11, 2001. They deliberately crashed the plane into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., killing all 64 aboard and another 125 in the building.

Aircraft hijacking, is the unlawful seizure of an aircraft by an individual or a group. Dating from the earliest of hijackings, most cases involve the pilot being forced to fly according to the hijacker's demands. However, in rare cases, the hijackers have flown the aircraft themselves and used them in suicide attacks –most notably in the September 11 attacks– and in several cases, planes have been hijacked by the official pilot or co-pilot; i.e., the Lubitz case.

Transportation Security Administration United States federal government agency

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that has authority over the security of the traveling public in the United States. It was created as a response to the September 11 attacks under the administration of President George W. Bush, to improve airport security procedures and centralize air travel security under a single federal agency.

Air France Flight 8969 1994 aircraft hijacking

Air France Flight 8969 was an Air France flight that was hijacked on 24 December 1994 by the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA) at Houari Boumediene Airport, Algiers. The terrorists murdered three passengers and their intention was to blow up the plane over the Eiffel Tower in Paris. When the aircraft reached Marseille, the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN), a counter-terror unit of the French National Gendarmerie, stormed the plane and killed all four hijackers.

Berlin Schönefeld Airport 1934–2020 airport of Berlin, Germany

Berlin Schönefeld Airport was the secondary international airport of Berlin, the capital of Germany. It was located 18 km (11 mi) southeast of Berlin near the town of Schönefeld in the state of Brandenburg and bordered Berlin's southern boundary. It was the smaller of the two airports in Berlin, after Berlin Tegel Airport, and served as a base for easyJet and Ryanair. In 2017 the airport handled 12.9 million passengers by serving mainly European metropolitan and leisure destinations. Schönefeld Airport also was the major civil airport of East Germany (GDR) and the only airport of the former East Berlin.

Airport security

Airport security refers to the techniques and methods used in an attempt to protect passengers, staff, aircraft, and airport property from accidental/malicious harm, crime, terrorism, and other threats.

Eagle County Regional Airport

Eagle County Regional Airport is in Gypsum, Colorado, United States, 4 miles from Eagle and 37 miles from Vail. It covers 632 acres (256 ha) and has one runway. The History Channel rated Eagle County Regional Airport as #8 on its list of Most Extreme Airports in July 2010 due to the elevation, weather, approach through mountainous terrain and challenging departure procedures. In 2008–09 the airport completed a runway repaving and extension project, increasing the runway length to 9,000 feet.

The Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System is a counter-terrorism system in place in the United States air travel industry. The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) maintains a watchlist, pursuant to 49 USC § 114 (h)(2), of "individuals known to pose, or suspected of posing, a risk of air piracy or terrorism or a threat to airline or passenger safety." The list is used to pre-emptively identify terrorists attempting to buy airline tickets or board aircraft traveling in the United States, and to mitigate perceived threats.

Germanwings GmbH was a German low-cost airline wholly owned by Lufthansa which operated under the Eurowings brand. It was based in Cologne with hubs at Cologne Bonn Airport, Stuttgart Airport, Hamburg Airport, Berlin Tegel Airport, Munich Airport and further bases at Hannover Airport and Dortmund Airport.

Kapalua Airport

Kapalua Airport, also known as Kapalua–West Maui Airport, is a regional private use airport on the west side of the island of Maui in Hawaii. It is located five nautical miles north of Lahaina, in Maui County. Most flights to Kapalua Airport originate from commuter airports on the other Hawaiian islands by commercial commuter services, unscheduled air taxis, and general aviation.

Registered Traveler

The Registered Traveler Pilot Program was an airline passenger security assessment system tested in the United States air travel industry in 2005. It was used in several U.S. airports in a voluntary pilot phase and continues in operation in several airports around the country. It is administered by TTAC, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) office responsible for Secure Flight, the replacement for the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) and the canceled CAPPS II counter-terrorism system. Registered Traveler is a public and private partnership between the TSA and the Registered Traveler Interoperability Consortium (RTIC) providing rules and standards for private Enrollment Providers that sign up participants. At 11:00 p.m. PST on June 22, 2009, Clear ceased operations because Clear and its parent company, Verified Identity Pass, Inc., filed for bankruptcy. The company was then acquired by Alclear LLC and "Clear lanes" were opened at Denver International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and San Francisco International Airport. Clear is currently operating at 60 airports, airports, stadiums, and other venues nationwide as of January 2020.

Security theater is the practice of taking security measures that are intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to achieve it. Examples include tightened airport security measures or other public transport security measures after major terrorist attacks.

Boarding pass

A boarding pass or boarding card is a document provided by an airline during check-in, giving a passenger permission to enter the restricted area of an airport and to board the airplane for a particular flight. At a minimum, it identifies the passenger, the flight number, and the date and scheduled time for departure. A boarding pass may also indicate details of the perks a passenger is entitled to and is thus presented at the entrance of such facilities to show eligibility.

Hand luggage

The term hand luggage or cabin baggage refers to the type of luggage that passengers are allowed to carry along in the passenger compartment of a vehicle instead of a separate cargo compartment. Passengers are allowed to carry a limited number of smaller bags with them in the vehicle, which typically contain valuables and items needed during the journey. There is normally storage space provided for hand luggage, either under seating, or in overhead lockers. Trains usually have luggage racks above the seats and may also have luggage space between the backs of seats facing opposite directions, or in extra luggage racks, for example, at the ends of the carriage near the doors.

Secondary Security Screening Selection

Secondary Security Screening Selection or Secondary Security Screening Selectee, known by its initials SSSS, is an airport security measure in the United States which selects passengers for additional inspection. People from certain countries are subject to it by default. The passengers may be known as Selectee, Automatic Selectee or the Selectee list. The number of names on the list fluctuates and is a secret, although the Transportation Security Administration apparently says there are tens of thousands of names on it.

American Airlines Flight 11 9/11 hijacked passenger flight; hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center

American Airlines Flight 11 was a domestic passenger flight that was hijacked by five al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001, as part of the September 11 attacks. Mohamed Atta deliberately crashed the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing all 92 people aboard and ensuring the deaths of 1,402 people at and above the aircraft's impact zone. The aircraft involved, a Boeing 767-223ER, registration N334AA, was flying American Airlines' daily scheduled morning transcontinental service from Logan International Airport in Boston to Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles.

Germanwings Flight 9525 2015 deliberate crash of an airliner in the French Alps

Germanwings Flight 9525 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Barcelona–El Prat Airport in Spain to Düsseldorf Airport in Germany. The flight was operated by Germanwings, a low-cost carrier owned by the German airline Lufthansa. On 24 March 2015, the aircraft, an Airbus A320-211, crashed 100 km north-west of Nice in the French Alps. All 144 passengers and six crew members were killed. It was Germanwings' first fatal crash in the 18-year history of the company.

Suicide by pilot Aviation disaster in which a pilot intentionally crashes the aircraft to hurt themselves or others

Suicide by pilot is an aviation disaster in which a certified or uncertified pilot deliberately crashes or attempts to crash an aircraft in a suicide attempt, sometimes to kill passengers on board or people on the ground. This is sometimes described as a murder–suicide. It is suspected as being a possible cause of the crashes of several commercial flights and is confirmed as the cause in others. Generally, it is difficult for crash investigators to determine the motives of the pilots, since they sometimes act deliberately to turn off recording devices or otherwise hinder future investigations. As a result, pilot suicide can be difficult to prove with certainty.

Airport privacy involves the right of personal privacy for passengers when it comes to screening procedures, surveillance, and personal data being stored at airports. This practice intertwines airport security measures and privacy specifically the advancement of security measures following the 9/11 attacks in the United States and other global terrorist attacks. Several terrorist attacks, such as 9/11, have led airports all over the world to look to the advancement of new technology such as body and baggage screening, detection dogs, facial recognition, and the use of biometrics in electronic passports. Amidst the introduction of new technology and security measures in airports and the growing rates of travelers there has been a rise of risk and concern in privacy.

TSA PreCheck U.S. Transportation Security Administration traveler program

TSA PreCheck is a Trusted Traveler program initiated in October 2011 and administered by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration that allows selected members of select frequent flyer programs, members of Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI, members of the US military, and cadets and midshipmen of the United States service academies to receive expedited screening for domestic and select international itineraries. As of March 2019, this program was available at more than 200 airports.


  1. 1 2 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. 1 2 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