More than a year after the September 11th attacks, many travelers are still wary of boarding commercial aircraft for fear of further terrorist activity. Though the government has taken steps to increase air travel safety - including creating of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), placing sky marshals aboard aircraft, and requiring that all airport security in this country be handled by federal employees - they have stopped short of deeming air travel safe, saying that they cannot offer the public a blanket guarantee of protection. So how safe is flying today? Should you be concerned the next time you step aboard a commercial airliner?
Safety at United States airports is better than it ever has been. Only ticketed passengers are now allowed past security checkpoints and all passengers are required to show a government-issued identification card (such as a driver's license or military ID) at the ticket counter, security checkpoint, and boarding gate. More passengers and their carry-on luggage are being searched and screened before boarding. Carry-on bags have been limited to one piece plus one personal item per passenger and no knives, box cutters, or other sharp objects are allowed. More explosives detection machines are in place to check luggage and the government is moving toward having all bags screened by the end of the year. A program known as CAPPS (Computer Assisted Prescreening System) is being used at many airports to identify suspicious passengers who are then taken aside and thoroughly searched.
There is no question that the new security measures have raised the safety level. Everyone from skycaps to security officers to flight attendants is now more aware of the potential for trouble and are on the alert both for suspicious passengers and questionable items in baggage. It is this level of awareness, more than anything else, that makes flying one of the safest means of travel there is.
You can be an unofficial member of the security team by doing your part to contribute to an uneventful flight:
Watch for unattended luggage or bags in the airport terminal or curbside area and report them to security.
Control your own luggage by keeping it with you at all times.
Refuse anyone's attempts to get you to take items aboard the aircraft for them.
Don't be afraid to report "odd" behavior from other passengers, but do it discretely - you could be wrong.
Don't discuss terrorism, bombs, guns, etc., but you may consider reporting someone who is talking about these things.
Comply with all security requirements, even if it means unpacking your bags to satisfy screeners.
Don't try to carry prohibited items aboard such as corkscrews, golf clubs, ski poles or tools.
Have electronic devices ready for screening at the security checkpoint.
Pack metal objects you might otherwise wear in your carry-on bag instead of trying to wear them through security checkpoints.
Following the above suggestions will make your trip through airport security smoother and might even stop another tragedy before it happens.