How 9/11 has impacted air travel over last 20 years

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The terror attacks of September 11 have been stamped into America’s memory. 

It’s a tragedy that can never be forgotten, and an event that has led to monumental change – including how we travel. 

The new normal routine involves checking in for a flight, dropping off bags, and passing through security, a process completed by millions of Americans daily. 

For travelers like Richard Clark, they remember a time when things were different. “flying was fun,” Clark remembers. “it was a pleasure….now, it’s a job.” 

Twenty years ago, things like metal detectors and x-rays didn’t exist in airports. it took only a few moments to get on a plane, not hours like many flyers experience today. 

“There was no checking or nothing,” Clark recalls, “We walked right in, walked right out.”

Another thing Clark remembers being different was the airplanes themselves. He recalls when captains kept the cockpit door open with travelers being able to look straight in. Now, those doors are armored and locked at all times.

The days of walking straight to a gate are gone, changed after the attacks on September 11. Now, every check and scan has a reason. 

Patricia Mancha with the TSA explains, “For every security measure that we have in place, there was an incident that led to that.” 

The TSA was created in November of 2001 after 9/11, and in its short history, has undergone an evolution to create the well-oiled machine we see today. 3D imaging has been the biggest update, tech that’s used to peer into bags and speed up the process. 

It’s an operation younger travelers like Eric Smith have never been without. 

“It must have just been the wild west I guess,” Smith said, “walking right up to the gate.”

Smith was alive during 9/11 and had traveled before, but can only recall times when it took a security checkpoint to fly, According to Mancha, those checkpoints are necessary, a work that is never done even 20 years later. 

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