Just before 9/11, Tom went to Florida to visit friends. I couldn’t go with, so I walked with him through security to the gate. I sat with him at the gate until his plane was called, and then I left the airport.
These days, I would just drop him off at the curb, since the gates are off limits to those without a ticket.
I don’t remember ever traveling without having to go through security, at all. I’m sure my first plane vacations as a child back in the 70’s were security free, but my father, who was employed by the Federal Aviation Administration, was always somewhat concerned that one of us would make a joke about a bomb to one of the gate attendants. It wouldn’t have even occurred to me had he not told me not to do it. As it was, I had to engage in some serious self-censoring in order to resist the urge to defy my father.
I do remember the hot meals on planes. They were this curious mixture of awful and delicious. I once got bumped to first class, and had this amazing steak. Usually, the food was just steamed chicken or some kind of pot roast.
The changes after 9/11 were alarming to me. We were stopped at the airport to have our trunk searched. There were armed troops in the airport, which gave way to an elaborate security apparatus, where you had to take your belt and shoes off, and worry whether your necklace would cause the beeper to go off. We needed to carry our luggage to a separate security area, instead of simply leaving it at the ticket counter.
And the liquids. How do you travel with less than 3 ounces of things?
Airports have always caused me anxiety. As a leisure traveler, I don’t know the rules. And the more rules there are, the less comfortable I am.
Our first trip after 9/11 was, ironically, to New York City in the summer of 2002. We normally would have flown, but we could not contemplate the security. So, we drove. We visited the Twin Towers site, which was still being cleared. The Statue of Liberty was still closed to visitors, and the Staten Island Ferry no longer took cars.
We’ve seen air travel change dramatically since 2001. Lots of those changes have been security related. There has been a financial restructuring of the industry that was partly caused by the slowdown in leisure travel after 9/11.
Oddly, I think that many of the non-security changes to air travel was caused by the deregulation of the industry in the late 1970’s, more so than 9/11. Deregulation led to the pattern of mergers and bankruptcy that have marked the air travel industry. It has also led to the delivery of services via a la carte pricing.
As we were taught in our 10th grade civics class, prices increase in an era of monopolization and decrease with competition. Back in the 70’s, prices were regulated by the government, and the industry players protected, to a certain extent, from competitive forces. Right now, we’re seeing a contraction of competition, and overall air travel prices are increasing. Some of these price increases have been masked by the introduction of luggage fees, premium seating fees, and food and beverage prices.
So, did 9/11 change everything? No. Did it change a lot? Yes.
Next weekend, we’re traveling by plane. I’m planning on carrying on my luggage, because we’re making a lot of connections. I bought little bottles for our liquids. I’m using the best advice from the web for packing light. I have a baby travel blanket, and I’ve budgeted for snacks on the plane. I’m terrified of the full body scan. I may wimp out and let them use the radiation machine on me.