No Major Airport Delays Reported On ‘National Opt-Out Day’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The lines of Thanksgiving travelers moved smoothly at airports around the country Wednesday morning despite an Internet campaign to get passengers to gum up the works on one of the busiest days of the year by refusing full-body scans.

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The Transportation Security Administration said very few passengers opted out. And there were only scattered protesters — including, presumably, a man seen walking around the Salt Lake City airport in a skimpy, Speedo-style bathing suit, and a woman reported to be wearing a bikini in Los Angeles.

After days of tough talk on the Internet and warnings of possible delays, some passengers decided to go to the airport especially early and were pleasantly surprised.

Retirees Bill and Margaret Selfridge arrived three hours early at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for their flight to Washington. It took only 10 minutes to get through the checkpoint at 8 a.m.

“Now we get to drink a lot of coffee,” Bill Selfridge said.

Ruth Billingsly, 52, showed up three hours ahead of schedule at the Philadelphia airport for her trip to Los Angeles. “It was a breeze,” she said. “I’m really, really early. Maybe I should take a nap.”

A loosely organized effort dubbed National Opt-Out Day planned to use fliers, T-shirts and, in one case, a Scottish kilt to highlight what some call unnecessarily intrusive security screenings. The screenings have been lampooned on “Saturday Night Live” and mocked on T-shirts, bumper stickers and underwear emblazoned “Don’t Touch My Junk,” from a line uttered by a traveler in San Diego who objected to a pat-down.

But the weather was shaping up as a much bigger threat: A ferocious, early-season snowstorm was expected to delay air travelers and drivers in the West, and heavy rain was also forecast in the Midwest. Windy weather in New England could also create snags.

More than 40 million people plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA, with more than 1.6 million flying — a 3.5 percent increase from last year.

Two protesters at the Phoenix airport held signs decrying “porno-scans” and drew sidelong glances from some passengers but words of support from others, who told them, “Thank you for being here.”

The protesters, husband and wife Patricia Stone and John Richards of Chandler, Ariz., said the TSA has taken security too far.

“Just because you buy a plane ticket doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to awful security measures. It’s not a waiver of your rights,” said Stone, 44. “The TSA is security theater. They’re not protecting us.”

But at security lines at the airport, one of the nation’s 10 busiest, lines were moving quickly and steadily. In fact, wait times for security checks at major U.S. airports from San Francisco to New York were 20 minutes or less Wednesday morning, according to the TSA, and no serious disruptions were reported

Asked early Wednesday if the protests were having any noticeable effect, TSA chief John Pistole told The Associated Press, “Not that we’ve seen overall. I mean we’ve, you know, had a couple of one-offs here and there.”

“So far, so good,” he said. “No long wait times or anything.”

Earlier Wednesday, Pistole told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that his agency is fully staffed to deal with problems and that travelers should be prepared for delays because of the threatened protests. For days, he has pleaded with Thanksgiving travelers not to boycott the body scans and delay other people.

“I just feel bad for the traveling public that’s just trying to get home for the holidays,” Pistole said, noting that TSA screeners “just want to get you through.”

Robert Shofkom wasn’t too worried about delayed flights, maybe just strong breezes. The 43-year-old from Georgetown, Texas, said he planned for weeks to wear a traditional kilt — sans skivvies — to display his outrage over body scanners and aggressive pat-downs while catching his Wednesday flight out of Austin.

“If you give them an inch, they won’t just take in inch. Pretty soon you’re getting scanned to get into a football game,” the information technology specialist said.

Shofkom was disheartened when his wife informed him Tuesday that the Austin airport doesn’t yet have body scans. But he decided to wear the kilt anyway, in a show of solidarity with fellow protesters.

One Internet-based protest group called We Won’t Fly said hundreds of activists would go to 27 U.S. airports Wednesday to pass out fliers with messages such as “You have the right to say, `No radiation strip search! No groping of genitals!’ Say, `I opt out.”‘

“If 99 percent of people normally agree to go through scanners, we hope that falls to 95 percent,” said one organizer, George Donnelly. “That would make it a success.”

If enough people opt for a pat-down rather than a body scan, security-line delays could quickly cascade. Full-body scans for passengers chosen at random take as little as 10 seconds. New pat-down procedures, in which a security agent touches a traveler’s crotch and chest, can take four minutes or longer.

The full-body scanners show a person’s contours on a computer in a private room removed from security checkpoints. But critics say they amount to virtual strip searches. Some have complained that the new enhanced pat-downs are humiliating and intrusive, too.

TSA officials say the procedures are necessary to ward off terror attacks like the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane last Christmas, allegedly by a Nigerian man who stashed explosives in his underwear.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • mister s

    Right now somewhere in the middle east Osama is laughing.

  • Zeetz

    Let the protests begin!

  • RoboMonkey

    “Whine bags”?!?!

  • chris

    as bad as it is to say…i hope somethinhappens on a plane so allthese freaking idiots will understand the importance ofsafety and security! Like they freaking want to do searches! No..itsfor our own dang safety morons. Get over it or don’t freakin fly! There’s several modes of transportation besides flying that dontdo any type of security checks. So tired of freakin idiots trying to HELP terrorists!!!!

  • DK

    Hey Chris, ever hear of the phrase; ” those who are willing to give up security for freedom deserve neither .” Ever hear of that?
    The 2(two) incidents began overseas due to lack of security in Europe, NOT AMERICA. Do your homework, no need for grandama to be groped. This is security theatre. This just a ruse and guess who is getting rich??? Michael “Skeletor” Chertoff, remember him?

    Follow the money.

    • mister s

      DK- Do you realize that quote you used is pro security? Which is what Chris is. He made a staement in favor of security measures, then you used a quote that also favors security over freedom…… but the rest of your post seems to be against what Chris was saying….. care to clarify?

  • Stupid Americans

    This is the stupidest cause Ive ever heard in my life. Whats next, “National protest the DMV’s long wait time” day? Whoever does this will do nothing but annoy the remainder of us American who havent forgotten that 9/11 happened. You f—-ing idiots, I hope a suicide bomber hijacks your plane and flies it into a building.

  • Matt

    Here is the problem. The TSA is using fear to have these installed. The problem with the underwear bomber wasn’t from a lack of security. It was from a bunch of people who allowed him on the plane. He payed his ticket in cash, had no passport, by-passed security, and was on the do not fly list. He was also escorted to his plane. Not only this, but his father warned the airlines about him and what he was going to do. What did anyone do about it? NOTHING. It was a failure of people, not a failure of security that allowed him on the plane. This is another instance of something that could have been stopped before it happened, but no one wanted to do a thing.

  • willblogforlols
  • Montana

    The crazies that called for the National Opt Out Day, don’t know what they are talking and the majority of our nation flew anyway. As soon as we get another terrorist attack these same crazies will be yelling that our government didn’t do enough to detect them. They have no ideas on what should be implemented instead of what is in place, but I am sure that will call this a victory. What a bunch of empty suits that are just real haters not debaters.

    • Eliot

      Terror attack? What terror attack? After more than 9 years of NO large-scale attacks by terrorists on our soil, do you still really believe that they are just waiting for YOU to get on plane so they can kill you? Come on; the only people who have been caught trying to blow up anything were unbalanced individuals who were incompetent boobs. You just bought into the government’s bogey-man stories so that they get you to do anything they want you to do. Sucker.

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