Despite furor over full-body scans, lines move smoothly at major U.S. airports

The lines of Thanksgiving holiday travellers 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.

Activist Lori Lamb distributes stickers to travelers to protest against TSA's new security procedures at Los Angeles International Airport

Activist Lori Lamb distributes stickers to travelers to protest against TSA's new security procedures at Los Angeles International Airport

CHICAGO — The lines of Thanksgiving holiday travellers 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.

The Transportation Security Administration said very few passengers opted out on Wednesday — the day before Thanksgiving. 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.

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.

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.

The new security measures have been a hot topic in the country this week, coinciding with the start of holiday travel season. A loosely organized effort dubbed National Opt-Out Day planned to use fliers and T-shirts to highlight what some call unnecessarily intrusive security screenings. The screenings have been lampooned on TV comedy shows and mocked on T-shirts, bumper stickers and underwear emblazoned “Don’t Touch My Junk,” from a line uttered by a traveller in California 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 travellers and drivers in the West, and heavy rain was also forecast in the Midwest. Windy weather in the Northeast could also create snags.

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.”

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.

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 traveller’s crotch and chest, can take four minutes or longer.

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.

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