Air travel has become one of the most-used forms of transportation across the globe. However, in the last two decades there have been a few occasions when it screeched to a halt, most notably after Sept. 11 and most recently during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Both of these important events changed the way we live and the way we fly.

Many of us can still recall what it was like to travel by plane prior to Sept. 11, 2001. Security screenings were far less intrusive and lines were never as long. Passengers were able to walk up to the gate with their loved ones before saying goodbye. Overall, air travel was much less restrictive and stressful.

Today, we must remove our shoes and belts while also having a full body screening. We cannot bring with us any liquids of more than 3.4 ounces and we must endure longer lines that force us to get to the airport hours before our flight, sometimes even if it’s a domestic flight. Privacy concerns have also grown over time due to additional demands and searches conducted by the Transportation Security Administration, especially when it comes to body searches, many times without good cause and simply based on racial profiling and discrimination.

Privacy concerns have also risen from the recently created PreCheck and Global Entry “trusted-traveler programs.” These programs were designed in an effort to mitigate some of the long lines, for individuals who are willing to pay a fee and provide certain information so that they may pass through security checkpoints without removing shoes and jackets or taking laptops out of their bag.

The pandemic has also had an enormous impact on air travel, not only for passengers but for employees, companies, and governments. After March 2020, the number of U.S. commercial flights plummeted from 8 million to about 5.5 million, an even bigger drop than the one after 9/11. By the summer of 2020, many countries began to open their borders and allow for foreign air travel. However, this came with several restrictions. Including masks and testing requirements, limited flights, and limited onboard service.

During 2021, thanks to the access to vaccination and rapid testing, commercial travel has begun to increase. This does not mean that any of the restrictions imposed will disappear. On the contrary, private airline companies have imposed vaccination requirements for employees and have enforced mask mandates through fines and legal action for noncompliance. Governments have begun to scale back the number of air travelers once again. This month the Biden administration announced that there woud be additional vaccination and testing requirements to enter the country.

These mandates and restrictions have angered countless individuals. Many of those complaints have gone viral due to their lack of respect and noncompliance with airline workers.

But I ask myself, is this the same way we behaved after the changes caused by Sept. 11? Or do we simply find these new restrictions “unfair” due to the politicized rhetoric of the pandemic?

Truth is, for the past 20 years, the entire world has had to relearn how we travel. We know we need to get to the airport a bit early, take shoes that are easy to slip off, and only take travel size shampoo. Now, we begin a new phase of travel, one in which we need to remember to take extra masks, hand sanitizer, our vaccination card, and most importantly, our gratitude and patience with airport and airline workers.

Marcela Betancur is the proud daughter of Colombian immigrants and currently serves as the director of the Latino Policy Institute at RWU. The opinions expressed in this column are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Latino Policy Institute or Roger Williams University.

(6) comments

Derrick L

4 years of bad behavior at the top normalized indecency and temper tantrums. Thankfully, we have stable leadership focused on rebuilding the country and not lining their pockets. Prosecute ALL those who break laws whether they be in the sky or in the halls of government.

Lincoln247

I don't think the intent here was to trigger symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Derrick L

The only people I see deranged are those who can't accept the fact that he lost.

Captain Cumberland

Certain media outlets are designed to generate outrage in people. They stoke the fire and their viewers feel like they are the victims. Their outrage turns into rage and that is why we get idiots on planes yelling and starting fights. So far in 2021 85% of flight attendants have had to deal with unruly passengers and 20% have experienced physical incidents. None of this is acceptable or fair to those people who are just trying to do their jobs.

I do miss the days when the country didn't feel so divided. We were never perfect, but it seemed like we tried to be more civil towards each other. At least people could exercise impulse control on a plane.

Lincoln247

Yes, "certain media outlets" divide us around the clock. We heard about fake Russian collusion for 4 years (it turns out the media pundits lied). Some outlets are stoking racial resentments on non-stop repeat, similar to what Marcela just did when she claimed body searches were "simply based on racial profiling and discrimination."

The newest divide is to tarnish the unvaccinated.

The best advice would be to shut off the TV and stop allowing yourself to be manipulated.

Some Guy

Way to twist a quote, Linc. Marcela said that "many times... [they] are simply based on racial profiling and discrimination." The "many times" is important context, unless you wish to argue that singling out people of evident Middle Eastern descent for "enhanced" screening never happens.

And "tarnishing" the unvaccinated? They are tarnishing themselves just fine. As more venues and services require proof of vaccination, I guess you can just stay home and stew. We had a great night last Saturday at The Vets, feeling quite safe with everyone in attendance having had to show proof of vaccination for entry. Common-sense public-health measures are just that, common sense.

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