TSA Pat-Downs, Scanners Evoke Holiday Travel Stress
NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS/WCBS 880/AP) — With the Thanksgiving holiday just days away, travelers are dreading not just the long lines, but the pat-downs some say are way too intrusive.
The stress of holiday travel and the pat-down controversy has become nothing short of a one-two punch for families.
“It’s stressful to fly alone, and then to have this thought behind my mind, it’s not helping the situation,” Marian Lombardi told CBS 2′s Tony Aiello.
Air travelers are protesting new requirements at some U.S. airports — including JFK, LaGuardia and Newark — that they must pass through full-body scanners that produce a virtually naked image.
The screener, who sits in a different location, does not see the face of the person being screened and does not know the traveler’s identity.
In theory, the added security makes travelers feel safe, but some said the scanners, that see under clothing, and enhanced pat-downs, that involve touching genital areas, are only adding to pre-Thanksgiving travel stress.
While some are stressing out, others are taking things in stride. One woman from Washington D.C. told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones she will opt for the full-body scan.
“I don’t have an issue with it. It’s for my safety, it’s for everybody else’s safety. I go through x-rays at hospitals. I mean, what’s the big deal,” she said.
Aiello also spoke with one mother at LaGuardia Airport Monday evening who wasn’t too big on the idea of her young daughter Ysanja facing a TSA pat-down.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do with her. I read they did a pat-down on a 3-year-old, [who] kept saying ‘no don’t touch me, no don’t touch me,’ So I’m hoping that’s not going to be going on with her because she’s only 2 1/2,” Savannah Perez said.
The TSA has struggled to respond to travelers’ concerns.
There have also been some high profile complaints from passengers including a woman whose artificial knee prompted a pat-down. And in another case, a Michigan man, was humiliated when a TSA pat-down ruptured his urostomy bag, spilling urine on his pants.
Kate Hanna, the head FlyersRights.org told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell she has been getting a thousand complaints a day for the past three weeks.
Hanna said some have complained of TSA agents who “snap on gloves and put them down their pants, clear to the pubic bone.” Hanna said some teenage girls have even complained of “having their genitals patted down and having TSA agents laugh at them.”
David Stempler, who runs the Air Travelers Association has a much different take.
“We certainly wish that there were better choices, but right now the best choice is the full scan,” Stempler said.
Monday in Trenton, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano signaled greater sensitivity to concerns.
“Of course we will make adjustments or changes when called upon, but not changes or adjustments that will affect the basic operational capability that we need to have to make sure that air travel remains safe,” Napolitano said.
The TSA is also moving aggressively to counter controversies – including one involving a video showing an 8-year old boy shirtless during a pat-down.
On its blog, the administration said the boy’s father removed the shirt to speed the process saying “no complaints were filed and the father was standing by his son for the entire procedure.”
Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole had pledged Sunday to review security procedures in the wake of a public outcry. But he also said the TSA must balance people’s demand for privacy with the need to protect passengers from those who would try to set off bombs on planes.
A loosely-organized Internet boycott of body scans is under way, and Pistole said he hoped people would exercise sound judgment over the busy Thanksgiving holiday. A National Opt-Out Day is scheduled for Wednesday to coincide with the busiest travel day of the year.
“Just one or two recalcitrant passengers at an airport is all it takes to cause huge delays,” said Paul Ruden, a spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents, which has warned its more than 8,000 members about delays resulting from the body-scanner boycott. “It doesn’t take much to mess things up anyway — especially if someone purposely tries to mess it up.”
Body scans take as little as 10 seconds, but people who decline the process must submit to a full pat-down, which takes much longer. That could cause a cascade of delays at dozens of major airports, including those in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.
(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)