It is one of the busiest periods of the year in the US, as millions fly off for Thanksgiving this Thursday. But there is unlikely to be much holiday cheer at airports, with massive protests expected against the use of new security measures.
The frisking of passengers and “revealing” body scans are the latest procedures aimed at stopping a terrorist strike. For some travellers, the new rules are too tough.
“The new enhanced screening procedures are noticeably more intrusive. At one point the agent had his hands actually in the top of my pants, my jeans, and I was a bit taken a back by that,” said one passenger.
“It’s just too personal, too invasive, I don’t want strangers touching the boys’ bodies. I don’t think it’s necessary,” said another air traveller.
But a recent poll suggests a majority of Americans believe the increased security is a price worth paying for peace of mind, considering recent events.
“Everyone is talking about how offensive a pat-down is. I think they forgot a year ago when a traveller had a bomb in their underwear, “ one passenger said.
Authorities have already relented by allowing US airline pilots to bypass the new screening measures, amid cries they already undergo rigorous background checks.
But the same cannot be said for ordinary passengers. Those who refuse to go through the bodyscanners must undergo a thorough body search.
US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said: ‘‘Most Americans are not used to a real law enforcement pat down like that. Of course we will listen 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.’‘
There has also been an outcry over the machines themselves, which use technology similar to X-rays. That has raised health concerns that prolonged exposure could lead to cancer.
For now, Europe remains divided over the use of body scanners. Some airports in Britain have begun using them after completing trial periods, while other countries such as Italy have said a firm no.