The ways 9/11 changed travel … 13 years later

I still remember working in Montreal and seeing the towers fall on 9/11. Little could I have understood how the game completely changed on that day. I remember reading Orwell’s masterpieces of “1984” and “Animal Farm” and Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” or Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” as a teen and thinking that if we ever got even close to the nightmare dystopias that were described in these books, that we’d be all fucked!

(If you’ve never read these books, then you should order them now and get some essential reading done)

Fast forward 13 years ahead and we live in an age of media saturation and attenuation, 24 hr propaganda/misinformation/disinformation cycles through the American media, almost complete erosion of press freedom around the world and the development of quasi police states in the US and Canada. The illusion is real, pervasive and and sad. It is almost forbidden to mention anything about 9/11 in a negative context … it’s as if a mention of the true, chilling effect of 9/11 will make it less true.

9/11 was the catalyst for the people accepting the police state. It’s taken 13 years for people to become complicit in the erosion of their freedoms. That being said, my blog is about travelling and seeing the world. I’m glad that I had a window to see the many places during the evolution of the 9/11 complex … the world will not be a similar place for my children. They will live in an age where it will be even more difficult to be different from the sheep of the world. Different ideas are already being struck down as conspiracy against the global good. The silent march of Islamophobia is unyielding and unforgiving.

If you’ve ever watched a show called “Homeland”, it’s difficult to push the notion that powerful Muslims are infiltrating the American government with a goal of bringing down America. The show is an absolutely fantastic setting of writing and build up … which makes it even more powerful. Kids watching shows like this, do not have the knowledge or global awareness to combat propaganda of this form.

As for travelling (since this is a travel blog), here’s a couple ways 9/11 changed travel and what I’ve noticed over the last 13 years

  1. Lower demand for air travel but higher profits because of security fees
    “To charge someone $25 to check a bag, but then to take away the seven-cent bag of peanuts is just not consumer friendly”
  2. Billion dollar 9/11 cottage industries
    Since 9/11, with the consumers picking up the cost of the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration (or TSA), you get a lot more screening for your money and you get to feel like a criminal every time you get to the airport. For travelers, airports now mean long lines, pricey snacks and the added bonus of an occasional pat down or finger bang – you get to pick!
    US Passengers now pay a $2.50 September 11th Security Fee, which goes toward financing the TSA’s staff, operations and screening equipment — like those new body scanners. (Passengers don’t pay the fee more than twice per one-way trip.) Airlines and passengers contributed $2 billion in taxes and fees to the TSA. The federal government — in other words, taxpayers — picked up the rest of the organization’s $8 billion tab.
  3. The acceptance of being profiled if you’re brown
    In my post 9/11 years of travelling, I’ve been stopped by security in many countries asking what type of name Sankar was. God forbid my name was a Muslim name instead of a Hindu name – it would have been a lot more difficult. I can’t even imagine what Muslim travellers go through now … especially with the rampant Islamophobia raging through the US news channels or print media. It’s become acceptable to profile visible Muslims. Go read up on the prevalence of hate crimes towards Muslims and Sikhs … even though the faiths have no intersections aside from beards.
  4. We pay more for our bags and get far less for our money
    After flirting with bankruptcy post 9/11, the airlines added loads of revenue-boosting measures like fees for checked bags and fuel surcharges. To cut costs, they reduced the number of flights they offered, crammed more seats onto planes and did away with complimentary snacks.
  5. Travel habits have changed so much … movies prior to 9/11 make travel seem like a dream
    • Travelers must check in at least two hours before their flight takes off.
    • Liquids and toiletries have to be a certain size and placed in clear, sealed bags.
    • No food or bottled water is allowed through security.
    • Passengers are selected at random for more intense screenings.
    • The extra security protocol means longer lines and yet more waiting.
    • Travelers have become accustomed to the post-9/11 restrictions, that seeing a pre-2001 movie where someone waits for a loved one at an airport gate seems dated, even strange.
  6. 9/11 created things like this
  7. Resentment of the US around the world (Canada gets a bit of the reflected negative light too)
    American travellers now claim that they are Canadian, so that they’re not the victim of incidents. Of course, this has now meant that saying you’re Canadian doesn’t mean you’re a peaceful bystander but rather a possible American. Worldwide sympathy has faded in the ten years since the 9/11 attacks. Much of the Arab world resented the U.S. occupation of Iraq. In May 2011, the hunt for, capture, and killing of Osama bin Laden, strained relations further with Pakistan. Throughout the Middle East and Pakistan protests against the United States have continued over the decade since the attacks.
  8. Passports for everyone …
    Remember when as a Canadian or American, all you needed to get into Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean from the U.S. was a birth certificate or drivers license?  Not anymore.  In 2007 beefed up screening measures require a passport to fly to these regions.  Many Americans were forced to get a passport for the first time to check out Niagara Falls.  In fact, the number of Americans holding passports increased dramatically since 2001.  According to State Dept. statistics, a little more than 7 million Americans had a passport in 2001, the year of the terror attacks. In 2010, that number jumped to 13.8 million, which are the latest statistics available.

    It’s like this video … but not really

If you think 9/11 just only affected travel … then I have a couple lakes in the Sahara that I’d like to sell you.

Here’s a great post from Matador Network on “Things we miss about travel before 9/11”

  1. Not needing a passport just to go to visit Canada from the US, and vice versa.
  2. Not having to remove your laptop.
  3. Leaving your shoes on when going through security.
  4. Not having to worry about your stuff getting stolen while it’s all spread out during security.
  5. Not having notes left by TSA in your luggage advising you that they’d done a hand-inspection because they saw something suspicious.
  6. Not having to get to the airport three hours before an international flight whenever it touches the United States, even if it’s a layover.
  7. Not having TSA agents yelling directions as if you were a schoolkid or inmate.
  8. Being able to use the airplane bathroom on flights between NY and Washington, DC.
  9. Not being prompted to think “nothing could go wrong on this flight, right?”
  10. Not having to worry about being pulled off a flight for having a “suspicious conversation” in a boarding queue.
  11. Not having to use TSA-approved locks (which are unavailable in many places outside of the US).
  12. Not having to balance a kid on your hip while trying to put your shoes / your child’s shoes on, then stuffing your laptop and stuff back into your carry-on, so you can then uncap all your kid’s bottles so the TSA agent can wave a piece of paper over them to test for illicit substances.
  13. Not having to worry if the body scanner is giving you brain cancer.
  14. Not having to watch as some elderly person in a wheelchair, probably a WWII veteran, has footwear removed for him, then his ass rolled through the scanners by TSA inspectors who don’t fall over and die from shame.
  15. Not having my family sit with your at the gate and wave you off as you board.
  16. Not having to stand by helplessly while your darker-skinned travel companion gets “randomly selected” to have her belongings searched.
  17. Not having to hear her calmly say “it’s okay, it’s okay” when her best friend, who has seen this happen to her multiple times over the last 3 months, starts to loudly question the randomness of their selection.
  18. Not hearing endless loops of security warnings about terror threat levels, unattended bags being destroyed, etc.
  19. Having your partner’s family members from Argentina, Uruguay “allowed” to visit you in the US without a (now nearly impossible to get) travel visa.
  20. Not having immigrations officials question you exhaustively upon reentry to the US about the whereabouts and “purposes” of your travels abroad.
  21. Not having to sit in a host family’s living room and attempt to explain US foreign policy.
  22. Not feeling an urge to conceal your identity as an American traveler.
  23. Having your husband/wife/brother/sister/son/daughter meet you after a long flight at the gate.
  24. The civility that people used to have
  25. Privacy & dignity, which is constantly violated by the Federal government’s agents: TSA, etc.
  26. I miss the lack of fear, much of which is a direct result of the Federal government’s actions post 9-11.

 So happy 9/11 anniversary to the Industrial Military Complex of the Americas!

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at

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