After an attempted terrorist attack that threatened to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, significant travel delays were to be expected. But more than two weeks later, some students traveling back to school still were still enduring the consequences.
Increased safety measures slowed security lines and delayed flights across the country, leading the Transportation Security Administration to advise travelers to leave their homes earlier – just in time for the back-to-school rush.
“The Department of Homeland Security immediately put additional screening measures into place – for all domestic and international flights – to ensure the continued safety of the traveling public,” the TSA said in a news release. “We are also working closely with federal, state and local law enforcement on additional security measures, as well as our international partners on enhanced security at airports and on flights.”
Justin Blau, who flew back to the States from Amsterdam on KLM airlines, said he encountered a three-hour delay due to extra security, which he said was diligent.
“Security individually patted down every person and removed everything from each person’s carry-on bags. The pat-down was rather intrusive and made some people uncomfortable. They even counted the pills in my medicine bottles to make sure they were ‘proper,’ which did bother me – I thought it was excessive,” Blau said.
Even with the extreme delay, Blau said the passengers kept their calm while flying, and added that the airlines were effective in keeping the passengers informed and satisfied as they waited on the plane.
Knowing about the expected delays, Blau showed up to the airport four hours in advance. He said that he felt perfectly safe both on the flight and in Schipol Airport.
“The Dutch were diligent about security, but unlike the U.S., they keep a friendly demeanor while searching you,” Blau said.
Freshman Varun Tyagi said that the security precautions at Logan International Airport in Boston were more thorough than he was used to.
“It was stricter. Shoes off, belts off for sure. Some people said you couldn’t stand up until after an hour before landing,” Tyagi said.
Tyagi said he knew about the security increases before going to the airport, so he gave himself about an hour more to ensure making his flight. Aside from the extra time required, Tyagi didn’t let the change affect his nerves about flying so recently after the attempted attack.
“Mentally, I was prepared for the worst, and I was ready to fight for my life if the situation called for it. I thought of using my belt as a weapon if terrorists decided to attack my flight. I still believe the passengers of the airlines are the best defense. We all must be prepared to fight suspected terrorists,” Tyagi said.
According to the New York Times, the new restrictions include not letting passengers leave their seats, use their electronic devices, or access their carry-on luggage during the final hour of flight, but this has not been enforced on all flights.
Sophomore Kirsten Ortega was more fortunate. Traveling back from Denver National Airport, she didn’t experience any significant delays or security breaches. She said that she arrived at the airport about two-and-a-half hours before her flight, time padding that she said excused additional security – even though she didn’t expect it for her 7 a.m. flight.
“There were security personnel accompanying the ticket agent who accepted the boarding passes at both Chicago O’Hare and Denver International Airport just as we entered the boarding tunnel and two more additional security officers at the immediate entrance to the plane screening passengers,” Ortega said.
International student Lisa Wen, making an 18-hour trek from China, did not have the same experience.
“When I came back, they had a warning sign up saying that they were going to give everyone a physical check if you were flying to the United States. So, they patted down every person down. I guess it was required by the federal government,” Wen said.
Wen said that she didn’t know about the attempted attack until when she went to the airport. She said flying knowing this was strange.
In addition to the extra pat-downs, Wen said that even after the security points, airport officials stood in the gates checking every person’s bag.