Holiday travelers asked to pack patience with new TSA rules

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by CYNTHIA VEGA & WIRE REPORTS

WFAA & The Associated Press

Posted on November 24, 2010 at 12:38 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 24 at 2:26 PM

IRVING - The lines of Thanksgiving travelers moved quickly and 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. 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.

TSA rolled out the newly enhanced pat-downs and body scanners just as travel season hits its peak. AN ABC News-Washington Post poll found that 50 percent of Americans believe the new pat-downs go too far.

"You almost kind of block that out and you do your job," said Mark Balbuena, a TSA security officer, in an ABC report. "We do what we're trained to do."

TSA tweaked its policy, now exempting working pilots and flight attendants from the new procedures. Protestors say that is not enough.

Those who organized Wednesday's "National Opt-Out Day" have asked travelers to opt out of the full body scans and instead ask for the pat-downs to intentionally clog up the system. Others have encouraged people to skip flying all together in protest.

"I think it should be emphasized that the delays are because of the protocol that the TSA is refusing to revise" said Jonathan Schaeffer, a protest organizer, in an ABC interview.

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."

Those looking to avoid body scanners at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport should head to Terminal A, and then take the Skylink people mover to the correct terminal. However, agents are ready to do the thorough pat-downs at every checkpoint.

There are no body scanners at Dallas Love Field.

Just in case - retirees Bill and Margaret Selfridge arrived three hours early for their flight. The Selfridges found that it took just 10 minutes to get through security this morning at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Bill Selfridge said, "Now we get to drink a lot of coffee."

One of the relatively few passengers there who did get a pat down was a visibly pregnant Emily Willits of Minneapolis. She declined the body scan because she was concerned about what it would do to the baby.

There have been warnings of possible delays because of planned protests against tougher security measures. But so far, no major disruptions are reported, and wait times at major airports have been running about 20 minutes.

The head of the nation's transport security agency is urging passengers to comply with searches to reduce the possibility of delays on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

A college student has posted a video of himself on the Internet stripping down to a Speedo bathing suit at the Salt Lake City airport in a protest of security patdowns.

The video was purportedly shot Tuesday in a security line, but airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann says another Speedo protest is taking place Wednesday, with one man walking around in a Speedo, boots and cap.

Transportation Security Administration spokesman Dwyane Baird says the man isn't a security threat and won't be detained.

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