At first, most accepted the TSA's water bottle ban, the shoe removal, the possibility of an up-close-and-personal pat-down; it's what we had to do to be safe. But as the years went by and the occasional gun or other dangerous item got through security even as stories about little kids and old ladies being singled out for "special" treatment multiplied, critics became increasingly aggressive, sneering at security as "theater". Is it worth it? I'm sure it has thwarted some criminals, but the system is far from perfect.
In the meantime, the overall air travel experience since 9/11 has gone to hell in a handbasket.
Once planes began flying again, there were lots of empty seats - the fear factor again - which led the airlines to begin cutting capacity. That helped some carriers survive, but the sluggish economy was of no help, which led to the introduction of shocking new fees (American Airlines slapped on its first checked-bag fee in 2008). Still, a number of carriers went into bankruptcy anyway, while some like ATA, Aloha, Skybus and more simply vanished.
Surviving airlines, meanwhile, kept cutting perks; food service, which was severely curtailed after 9/11, reached its zenith last fall when Continental offered the last free meal in coach. Speaking of customer service, if you want to talk to a human being at an airline, be prepared to fork over $25 for the privilege, but you may find the non-human airport kiosk quicker and more responsive.
What else have we lost since 9/11? A certain innocence, and something else; I suppose you could call it the joy of travel. Look around next time you're at the airport and see how people dress. Sweats, ratty jeans, and even saggy pants but you know what? It's not inappropriate attire, not when you consider that flying these days is no longer a pleasant adventure, but a chore. The hassle of security, the difficult encounters with overworked airline employees; what is the point of dressing up like Mad Men extras for that?
But still we fly. We are wiser and way more cynical since 9/11, and we put up with more garbage than ever before, but we know no one is going to stop us from flying. The terrorists tried but ten years later, we keep getting on planes. We fly.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.
Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.