Life was very different after 9/11 in a lot of ways. One thing that changed forever is the way we travel.

That terrorist event changed the entire travel industry, from what we can take on the plane to how we check in to a hotel. Experts say while we may be safer, we lost some freedoms and for some of us, the emotional damage is still real.

In the days after 9/11, airports closed, runways were empty and nothing was taking off. Eventually Americans returned to flying. However, the way we flew changed dramatically.

For starters, the TSA, Transportation Security Administration, simply didn’t exist before 9/11. Suddenly, gone were the days of showing up at the airport 15 minutes before takeoff. TSA spot checks of luggage, baggage screenings, pat downs and body scanners became a reality.

“You have to go way ahead of time,” said Mahmood Khan. 

Khan is a professor of hospitality and tourism management at Virginia Tech. He says this all lead to longer travel time. He said, “More delays. This brings anxiety.”

Flying came with new restrictions too. Gels, aerosols and liquids were limited in size and to one clear bag for inspection. Also, bans on what you could take on-board went into effect. No longer permitted on the plane -razors, scissors and knives.

“They cannot provide for example, nice cutlery. So the class of service has been affected” said Khan.

The 9/11 hijackings brought some permanent security changes inside the plane as well. Armed marshals were added to plane and cockpit doors were reinforced. Gone were the days of good-byes at the gate. There were now airport terminal boundaries.

Khan said, “The families cannot see their loved one climb of the stairs and go.” Khan says for some the overall fear of flying has increased. He said, “It is very difficult the remove the scares that have been left by 9-11.”

The travel changes are not limited to the airport. Big brother is watching more. Hotels added cameras and now want your ID or passport at check-in.

“It’s much safer but it comes at a cost,” said Khan.

The professor believes 20 years later we are seeing similar 9/11 impacts on travel with the COVID-19 pandemic. Flights were grounded for a time and he says there are still many who feel much safer driving than flying.