title:Travel in the United States since the terrorist attacks of 9/11: How have things changed?
author:Rita R. Powers
Long gone are the days when an airline passenger is able to go straight to the gate and catch their flight. As you all know, the way we think about travel has been profoundly changed by the events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath. These shifts have had a practical and psychological impact on all of us. Most of these changes have taken place in the airline industry although other parts of the travel industry and the nation as a whole have been forced to adjust also. Immediately after Sept. 11, as you know, travel was drastically reduced virtually across the planet. In the past year, it has been steadily picking up. However, in most cases, it has not reached pre-September 11 levels. Domestic travel In the United States has recovered much more quickly than international travel. In fact, domestic travel has been very strong this summer, with some destinations such as the national parks are reporting record breaking numbers of visitors. International travel has been picking up too, but more slowly. Recently, more people are beginning to plan international trips again.
How has Sept. 11 affected the traveler? Well, many of you are no doubt familiar with the practical changes that have come about after 9-11. These have especially impacted air travelers. Airport security is much tighter. Access is much more rigorously restricted. Long lines are visible inside terminals and sometimes along the sidewalks outside the airport buildings. In short, you have to wait longer and in more lines than you used to. As a result, whether you are flying domestically or internationally, it is necessary to arrive at airports earlier than before, and make sure that all your documents are in order. One of the more drastic changes is that all security screeners at United States airports have been professionally trained. Passenger’s carry on items are passed through an X-ray machine where they are checked for what in today’s terms are considered dangerous items such as knives, corkscrews, etc. Until just recently, scissors were considered a threatening item. They are now allowed in carry-on bags as long as they are no more than 4″ at blade length. Screeners are now more frequently performing random searches of baggage and performing passenger pat downs. 100% of all checked baggage is checked for explosives and other dangerous items. Now all passengers are required to go to the ticket counter before check in. Passengers must have some form of government issued ID such as a state drivers’ license or passport. If you do not have ID, you are not getting on an airplane. Most airports allow only ticketed passengers to go to the departing gate, and you now have to walk quite a stretch before your loved ones can greet you upon arrival.
Even the airplanes themselves are more secure. After 9/11, when the Department of Homeland Security was put into place, they were given the task of performing vulnerability assessments on over 75 of the United States’ major airports and actual airline security systems. As a result, every US larger passenger aircraft has now been equipped with hardened cockpit doors. Thousands of federal air marshals were assigned to flights in order to help ensure the safety of passengers, and to guard against terrorist acts. We have just recently witnessed an unfortunate event where a person on an aircraft claiming to have a bomb was shot by an air marshal. Make no mistake about it; these security measures are very serious.
Psychologically, the changes have been profound. Americans are skittish travelers, and they tend to somewhat indiscriminately lump together vast portions of the world. After Sept. 11, they have tended to avoid travel to any country in the Middle East and much of Asia, as well as India and Pakistan. For the traveler, one of the results of travel in a post-9/11 world is that you need to be better informed about your destination. It is a good idea to read up on the places you are planning to visit, to understand their history, laws, cultures, customs and current conditions. The more you know about your destination, the better prepared you will be to anticipate problems that could have been avoided.
Changes within the travel insurance industry as well have taken place as a result of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Currently some travel insurance companies provide coverage for terrorist attacks committed in the United States of America such as CSA Travel Protection (www.csatravelprotection.com). Prior to 9/11, travel insurance only covered terrorist attacks committed overseas. Along with the travel insurance industry the methods Americans use to plan their trips have changed because of 9/11. More than 60% of US vacationers are now using the Internet to plan their vacations either alone or with assistance of a professional travel agent. Americans had already known about travel information and travel business on the Internet prior to September 11th, but many more began to utilize it after the attacks. A lot of online travel deals became available from airline companies and hotels desperate to regain business directly after 9/11. It soon became widely known that great travel deals were available online. Many comprehensive or all-inclusive packages have become popular due to value-added offers that have enticed many Americans to re-evaluate and re-adjust their take on travel. With the proper planning and contextual awareness, traveling can be enjoyable again
Although the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 are in no way seen as something positive, these same horrific events have lead to many improvements to the safety and security of travel within the United States. Some of these new security practices may seem like an inconvenience but they have been set up to ensure the safety and continuity of American and friendly foreign travelers traumatized by the events of September 11th.