IATA DG: Air Travel More Secure Now After Sept 11

  • Says security constantly evolving challenge


More than a fifth of the U.S. population is too young to remember what air travel was like before Sept. 11, 2001. Passengers’ loved ones used to be able to greet and bid them farewell at the gate. Travelers weren’t required to take off their shoes and belts or remove liquids from carry-on luggage before going through checkpoints, let alone wait in long security lines.

It was years before airlines charged passengers to check their bags or select a seat, though average domestic fares are cheaper today. The entire industry, from airport security to flight attendant training to even the number of airlines in existence was reshaped by the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history.

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The Director-General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Willie Walsh, in a fact-sheet about September 11, 2021, made available to Aviation Metric, said the story of the next 20 years ought to be about governments’ and industry’s ability to share and respond to new risks that are inherently integrated by nature or design.

He said: “Sadly, that lesson has not been learned in terms  of governments’ response to COVID-19 and the way health measures are being imposed upon civil aviation without considered consultation.” Walsh however, noted that the aviation industry is more secured today than it was prior Sept 11 with advanced locked and armored cockpit doors, explosives detection screening of baggage, and other less visible steps that have certainly made aviation more secure.

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IATA Director-General, Willie Walsh

“Through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) the baseline of security measures required of states has significantly progressed. We also see much stronger political will by some key governments to help raise the bar globally, including helping to fund other countries to enable them to meet their security obligations.

Anything less than universal compliance with ICAO standards is not acceptable. We are more secure, but security is a constantly evolving challenge,” he noted.

Global passenger traffic after September 11 recovered but it took two years, as travelers were reluctant to fly and business travel demand plunged because of the attacks and a recession. The U.S. airlines lost $8  billion in 2001.

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The industry wasn’t profitable again until 2006. Losses topped $60 billion over that five-year period and airlines again lost money in 2008 during the Great Recession. Job cuts in the wake of 9/11 were in the tens of thousands and workers faced massive pay cuts. Only the Covid pandemic has threatened more jobs but a record $54 billion federal bailouts prohibited airlines from laying off staff.

Wole Shadare