It’s national opt-out day. Will you participate?

Early yesterday afternoon I passed through O’Hare airport on the far end of terminal 3, approached the security checkpoint and was selected for scanning with a backscatter detector. With a boarding pass in my back pocket I was also selected for a pat down. In this case, the TSA officer used the back of his hands to check my entire back side – and sent me on my way (without the computer that I forgot at the checkpoint) to gate K7.

The Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) was a simple security measure that day, but today, on the nation’s busiest travel day many will face it for the first time. And in protest, many are advocating a movement to opt-out of the scans.

In lieu, those who opt out will be subject to an intensive pat down, the results of which has been covered on the web ad nauseum.

More importantly, however, is the added time necessary for a pat down. AIT scans already take longer than a quick walk through a magnetometer, and opting out of one adds further time to the affair. Some critics of the movement are thus concerned that unsuspecting passengers will be held up at security and more flights will be missed.

Needless to say, if 95% of passengers choose not to be scanned by an AIT device this Wednesday it’ll surely send a strong message to the brass at the Department of Homeland Security. If a few trouble spots cause innocent passengers to miss flights though, I’m not so sure that it’s worth it.

[flickr image via billypalooza]

Five reasons why you’ll be miserable during Thanksgiving travel

snow stormWe’ve all heard that the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year for air travel. And, the roads tend to get clogged up with people going to visit friends and family – not to mention stuff their faces with turkey, potatoes and other traditional holiday fare. Travel isn’t going to be fun tomorrow, but you already know that.

But, do you know why?

Personally, of course, I have no doubt you do. Like me … like everyone … you have your own collection of Thanksgiving travel horror stories (and we’d love to read them, so leave a comment!). There’s also a big picture though, which provides a bit of context as to why this travel day can be unbearable.

Let’s take a look at five reasons why Thanksgiving travel is going to suck this year:


TA’s Thanksgiving travel trends survey found 28% say Turkey Day traveling stresses them out, especially heavy traffic.less than a minute ago via HootSuite

1. You won’t be alone: AAA estimates that more than 42 million people will be traveling at least 50 miles from home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Whether you’re in an airport or on the road, you won’t be alone. Be ready to share – you won’t have a choice.

2. It gets more crowded than airports: I’ve flown my share of Thanksgiving Eves, and it is miserable. But, the roads will probably be tougher (as I cope with childhood memories that fall short of fond). AAA notes that 94 percent of these travelers – 39.7 million people – will reach their holiday destinations by car. Traffic mean’s a whole lot of “Alice’s Restaurant” while you wait to merge.

3. The weather won’t help: according to CNN, there are “[w]inter storm warnings, watches and advisories” starting in California, Utah and Nevada and going all the way up to the Canadian border. Blizzards are on the list for most of Utah, western Colorado and southern Idaho.

Have the sense to stay off the roads when driving would be colossally stupid.

4. The media won’t help: doubtless you’ve seen a few stories about body scanners and “National Opt-Out Day.” If you think this won’t lead to longer lines at airport security checkpoints (if a mass protest actually happens), you’re out of your mind. Indignation means longer waits, so if National Opt-Out Day happens, I hope for your sake you’re a supporter. There’s a good chance you aren’t, though, as 64 percent of Americans say they support the scans, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

There’s also a good chance you’re living in a dream world, since 70 percent of respondents to that poll believe the new TSA procedures won’t affect their flying plans.

5. It always does: right?

So, what’s your worst Thanksgiving travel experience? Leave a comment below to let us know!

[photo by atlih via Flickr]

Full-body scanner / pat-down controversy gets the cartoon treatment

Taiwan’s Next Media Animation has turned the spreading controversy over airport full-body scanners and pat-downs into a cartoon.

full-body scanner pat-downThe animation house releases news videos each day on YouTube and provides English translations for some of the videos.

The animation summarizes – and mocks – the recent incidents in the United States when air passengers have refused full-body scans and pat-downs – the Travel Security Administration’s recently released enhanced security measures.

Among the scenes in the video:

  • A cross-dressing male passenger fights off a TSA agent’s advances and reveals undergarments with explosives and a tag reading “Osama’s Secret”
  • Protestors wave signs that read “Don’t Touch My Junk”
  • The name of the full-body scanner manufacturer is “RapeScan Systems.”
  • Naked passengers take over a plane on Nov. 24, which protestors have deemed National Opt-Out Day.
  • A female passenger requests that her pat-down be done in private, and is taken to a room with a king-size bed and a seductively dancing TSA agent.