Weatherford Democrat


December 14, 2009

The decade in travel: Technology and terrorism

NEW YORK (AP) — Remember getting through an airport without removing your shoes, dumping your water bottle or showing ID?

Remember when buying plane tickets by phone was faster than using a clunky Web site with a dial-up connection?

Remember when you needed a guidebook to plan a vacation, and when you had to phone ahead to get directions?

All these things are different now, thanks to two forces that have changed travel and tourism in the last decade profoundly and forever: Terrorism and technology.

Long before Sept. 11, 2001, air passengers walked through metal detectors and had their carry-on luggage screened by X-ray. But these procedures failed to prevent the 9/11 attackers from boarding four jets with knives and box cutters.

In the aftermath of the attacks, the Transportation Security Administration was created, "the number of prohibited items doubled or tripled," all checked bags were screened, and "the scrutiny passengers undergo was increased," said Robert Baker, director of global security intelligence studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.

A few months later, in December 2001, Richard Reid tried to blow up a plane by igniting explosives in his shoe. That led to barefoot passengers padding through the checkpoints. Then in August 2006, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up aircraft using liquid explosives. That led to restrictions on liquids and gels.

Today, travelers who forget that snow globes, wine and water bottles aren't allowed through airport checkpoints seem absurdly out of touch. And there's little sympathy if you miss your flight because you didn't allow enough time for security lines.

The attitude toward air travel has changed over the last decade too. Flying isn't fun anymore. It's just one big headache: Flight delays, lost baggage, overbooked flights, fewer onboard amenities and fees for things that used to be free.

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