The Travel Detective

How Travel Security Could Change After Recent Terrorist Attacks

Locations in this article:  Brussels, Belgium Paris, France

wingRecent terrorist attacks in Istanbul and Ankara, and today’s bombings and attacks at the Brussels airport and a metro station are harsh reminders of the world in which we live.

The reactions by those in the travel and security sectors are more or less predictable. Cruise lines have canceled or limited port calls in Turkey, airspace over Belgium is currently closed, and flights have been canceled.

What happens next is fairly easy to predict—pull out the post 9/11 security playbook, install airport perimeter security zones, and severely limit access to high profile airports.

As many of you may remember, this is what happened immediately after 9/11, when only ticketed passengers could get into the airport. No meeters or greeters or family members were allowed. From an efficiency and security perspective, the approach worked perfectly. Airports were uncrowded, traffic moved quickly, and planes operated on time.

But the economic impact was another story. Concessionaires at the airports complained of a staggering drop in revenue from newsstands, shops, and airport restaurants. So quickly, the security regulations were relaxed.

Don’t be surprised to see them reinstated, at least at some European airports. Of course, you can expect an immediate show of force at these airports, train stations, and in some cases, bus stations. But the real question is how effective is this security in the long run? Do we want to/need to live in a police state when it comes to our travel?

One thing that absolutely will (and should) happen is tighter security at European border crossings—not just because of the current refugee crisis, but in terms of passport checks for EU passport holders.

The Belgian cell that traveled to Paris before the nightclub massacre last November had no troubles at any border, because, as EU passport holders, the inspectors merely waved them through. That will no longer be the case. Those passengers—and their passports—will now be more thoroughly scanned against crime and suspected terrorist databases at each European border. The current assumption by law enforcement is that the Belgium airport and train station attackers likely came from the same network behind the November attacks in Paris.

For the moment, U.S. airlines are offering waivers for those who were scheduled to fly to Belgium, to allow them to either re-book or get refunds.

We will update developments as warranted.

By Peter Greenberg for