Which do you prefer? Would you rather have naked photography or groping? Many Americans are opting for neither and choosing not to fly and there is a real sense this is going to boil over on November 24, the busiest travel day of the year.
ExpressJet pilot Michael Roberts last month refused to submit to a full body scan in the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machine at the Memphis Airport. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials then told Roberts he would have to undergo a “pat down” search. Roberts refused this option and TSA officers momentarily detained him and harshly questioned him before allowing Roberts to leave the airport premises.
Roberts may very well have opened up a can of worms.
CNN reports many passengers, cabin attendants, and pilots are uncomfortable with the intrusive inspection procedures. In addition to Roberts, others have chosen not to submit to AIT screening.
Several grassroots organizations are now urging the public to avoid travel by airlines during the upcoming holiday season. This has prompted concerns by the U.S. Travel Association and other travel companies. On Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met with members of the travel industry to discuss the situation. She emphasized TSA’s commitment to facilitating the flow of passengers and trade while maintaining security.
According to Geoff Freeman who serves as executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association, the organization has received hundreds of complaints from many who have declared they will not travel by air over the holiday season.
The U.S. Travel Association reports a 2008 survey determined passengers chose not to fly 41 million trips causing a loss of $9.4 billion in revenue to the airlines. The main reason cited was a perception the aviation industry security system was “broken.”
This is also a growing concern among workers in the airline industry. Leadership of the pilot unions for both American Airlines and US Airways have advised their members to avoid AIT scanning. They are concerned with health risks associated with repeated exposure to multiple scanning. They also referred to the intrusive and negative behavior of the TSA screeners.
As we move forward into this year’s holiday travel season, the best advice for those traveling by air is to arrive early at the airport. You may have to allow extra time to deal with travel delays arising from congestion at security checkpoints.
Another point: don’t joke about security. Many screeners seem to lack a sense of humor.
© 2010 J. Clark