Airport security repercussions due to the September 11, 2001 attacks

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, questions were raised regarding the effectiveness of security at the time, as all 19 hijackers managed to pass existing checkpoints and board the aircraft. After the attack, security at many airports worldwide was escalated, ostensibly to lower the probability of similar events occurring again.

Changes in Airport Security

Before the September 11, 2001 attacks, airport screening was provided by private companies which were contracted with the airline or airport. In November 2001, the Transportation Security Administration was introduced to handle screening at all U.S. airports. They installed bulletproof and locked cockpit doors. Argenbright Security, a company that provided security for Newark and Washington Dulles, had problems before in May 2000, because they hired 1,300 untrained security guards, including several dozen with criminal records, for Philadelphia International Airport.[1] The company, which was on probation at the time of the attack, had its probation extended to October 2005.[2][3]

Improved Security on Aircraft

Cockpit doors on many aircraft are now strengthened and bulletproof to prevent unauthorized access. Unlike in previous years, passengers are generally prohibited from entering the cockpit during flight. Some aircraft are equipped with CCTV cameras, so the pilots can monitor the cabin activity. Pilots also have an option to carry a gun, but must be trained to use and operate it. In the U.S., more air marshals have been placed onto flights to improve security.

Improved security screening

The airport checkpoint screening has been significantly tightened since 2001. Many passengers are patted-down and thoroughly checked with a hand-held metal detector. The security personnel are also better trained to perform searches. On September 11, hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Salem al-Hazmi all set off the metal detector alarm. Despite being checked with a hand-held detector, the screener failed to find the items that caused the alarm. They then all boarded the aircraft. They later found out that they were carrying box cutters, and the hijackers used those to threaten and kill people with.[4] Box cutters and similar small knives were however allowed in 2001.

Until 2001, in many countries, passengers going for domestic flights were not screened, only international passengers were. Within a few years, all passengers were screened.

Identification checks

On September 11, some hijackers lacked proper ID, yet they were able to board. All passengers 18 years or older generally must now have valid identification, issued by the government in order to fly, although the ID is only visually checked for validity and the name and details are not validated. Airports may check the ID of any passenger at any time to ensure that the details on the ID match those on the printed boarding pass. Under exceptional circumstances, an individual may 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. 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.

A European Union regulation demanded airlines to make sure the same person checking in luggage also boards the aircraft. The method of implementing this was demanding ID from every passenger having check-in luggage, both when dropping a bag and when boarding.



In 2003 John Gilmore sued United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and 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.[5][6] Gilmore initially lost the case, known as Gilmore v. Gonzales, and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied.

See also


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