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The Changes in the Airline Travel Industry After the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

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Terrorist attacks change the lifestyle and priorities of a society (Eldar, 2010) non more so than the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Following the attacks questions were raised with regard to the effectiveness of all airport security and how the suspects were able to pass checks and board the planes.

Today aviation plays a major role in connecting the world, transporting people, and goods. Therefore, the provision of adequate security measures is of vital importance in the aviation industry (Price and Forrest, 2013). The International Civil Aviation Organization now sets standards that all member countries must adhere to and in turn member countries set out procedures to ensure they meet these standards. Security procedures must be constantly improved to combat changing terrorist activity (Price and Forrest, 2013).

A report by the (European Commission 2005) estimates that over 30,000 flights operate on a daily basis in European airspace. The scheduled flight times and known destinations make these easy targets and allows maximum time for planning. The developing nature of aviation and the increased numbers using air travel make the industry an attractive target and guarantees high publicity rewards.

Before the 9/11 attacks all aviation security in Europe was the responsibility of the European Civil Aviation Conference but following the attacks it was enshrined into EU Law. The legislation was based on 4 principles, Simplification, Harmonization, Clarification and the Enhancement of Security Levels. The baseline measures set out common standards in the screening of bags, access around airports, prohibited items and staff recruitment.

Post 9/11 security both on board aircraft and on the ground was increased and not always for the good. Security measures on board aircraft included the upgrading and reinforcing of cockpit doors to prevent unauthorized access. Following the suicide of a German co-pilot, the procedures would later be changed to stipulate two authorised persons must be in the cockpit at all times. The co-pilot had locked and secured the cabin door while the Captain had went to the toilet and due to the security measures in place he was unable to gain access to cabin. All 150 passengers and crew died.

At airports the changes to the security protocol were more noticeable with not all having the desired effect. Airports are confronted by increasing costs, as well as escalating customer dissatisfaction, as a result of development and changes in security procedures (Lange et al, 2013).

The International Air Transport Association states that “Aviation is more secure today than in 2001. But this has come at a great price in terms of passenger convenience and industry costs.”

Since 9/11 there are 5 lessons to take forward:

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  1. Governments must coordinate the development and deployment of security measures to ensure harmonized global standards and eliminate overlapping and redundant requirements among nations.
  2. Governments are obliged to foot the bill for security threats which are national challenges in the same manner as they would do in any other sector. Airlines and their passengers currently pay a security bill that had ballooned to $7.4 billion by 2010.
  3. Passengers should and do play an important role in helping keep air travel safe. Vigilance and cooperation with authorities are crucial.
  4. Governments need to embrace a risk-based approach to security screening.
  5. We must accept that there is no such thing as 100% risk-free security. Governments must focus on the probable and not all that is possible and avoid policies driven by knee-jerk reactions.

The list of prohibited items passengers face when travelling has increased considerably with some experts stating that it’s the passengers themselves that need to be scrutinized and not the contents of there bags. Following 9/11 governments introduced a profiling system which many claimed violated their civil rights.

“The primary purpose of profile-based screening is to determine the absence of normal behaviour or the presence of abnormal behaviour during the processes of document checks and behaviour analyses’ (Price and Forrest, 2013).

The CAPPS II process involved each passenger being assessed and placed into either acceptable, unaccepatable or unkown risk category:

  • Acceptable risk – subject to basic security screening.
  • Unacceptable risk – Interviewed by police and decision made whether to permit travel.
  • Unknown – subject to additional security procedures

This process was flawed and allowed “Richard Reid, an Englishman who attempted to detonate explosives in the shoes he was wearing on American Airlines Flight 63 in 2001, had not been identified by the profile-based screening system’ (Price and Forrest, 2013).

Following on from this the Secure Flight System was introduced which focused on a list drawn up of passengers on a watch list while the rest where assigned into risky or non risky groups. This process has drawn its own criticism as different security procedures are applied to different passengers some of which may have been assigned into the risky group due to their colour, dress or creed.

“In effect, this means that depending on where people come from or what their passports are, they are exposed to discriminatory practices’ (Hasisi et al, 2012). “It is stated that terrorist profiling factors might be based on differences, such as, nationality, place of birth, age, gender and physical characteristics; however, race, ethnicity and religion should be left out in this definition’ (Kleiner, 2010).

Although profiling has not been credited with stopping any terrorist threats it has seen arrests made for other crimes including drugs and counterfeit travel documents.

In conclusion, I feel that profiling in the immediate time after the 9/11 attacks was effective and provided a great sense of security and reassurance that action was being taken by governments across the world. Although as time went on and the immediate threat diminished, passengers felt more comfortable and the process was then open to a lot more scrutiny. Passengers being put into risky/unacceptable categories obviously feel aggrieved and rather than think of the long term security start asking questions as to “why am I subject to extra checks”, “why am I being single out”, “why is the finger pointing to me”. The SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique) programme used today seems to be a lot fairer and requires security staff to observe the actions and behaviour of passengers and them submit them to extra checks. But like the previous system the human element of selecting and grading behaviour is left to individual interpretation, it is open to human error. This in turn leading to racial prejudice especially among the Arab Muslim community. On the downside and like the actions carried out by terrorists they often undergo a lot of training before carrying out attacks and their awareness of this behaviour recognition profiling can mean they undergo training to prevent their behaviour from being picked up or detected.

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The Changes in the Airline Travel Industry After the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
“The Changes in the Airline Travel Industry After the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
The Changes in the Airline Travel Industry After the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
The Changes in the Airline Travel Industry After the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from:
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