A surprising 70 percent of air travelers support National Opt-Out Day

Despite the government’s insistence that American air travelers broadly support its new airport security measures — which include either a full-body scan or a so-called “enhanced” pat-down — a weekend poll by the Consumer Travel Alliance finds public sentiment has turned against the policy.

Asked whether they supported National Opt-Out Day, on which air travelers plan to call attention to what they say are overly invasive TSA screening techniques by intentionally refusing the full-body scans at the airport, a surprising 70 percent answered “yes.” The poll of more than 1,000 travelers suggests that air travel could be slowed significantly or even grind to a halt on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

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The Consumer Travel Alliance and several other groups that represent travelers, including the Business Travel Coalition, do not believe Opt-Out Day is the best way to promote change. In fact, history suggests litigation combined with public pressure is a more effective way to change TSA practices. (Two policy changes last week involving the screening of pilots and children under 12, were a direct response to lawsuits and intense public pressure.)

There were strong opinions on all sides of this issue, with supporters saying civil disobedience was the only option and the detractors accusing the organizers of Opt-Out Day, and even this site’s publisher, with endangering national security.

Let’s start with the supporters. Here’s Susan Rogers:

Yes, I support Opt-Out Day – and I’m opting out by not flying.

Now that getting on a plane amounts to submitting to what is essentially sexual violation and molestation by either their peeping-tom machines or by the hands of some stranger, I don’t intend to fly again until things change.

If I can’t get there in my vehicle, I’m not going. And my husband wants no part of it either. He’s looking at having to take a business trip soon to a destination some 11 hours’ drive from where we live, but he’d rather drive it than endure all the hassles involved in going through airport security just to board a plane.

Life is an adventure and none of us were issued any guarantees at birth. Any plane can blow up or crash whether or not there are any terrorists aboard. This has always been so, and something that no passenger has ever had any control over.

Meanwhile, a determined enough terrorist will find a way around whatever current security precautions are in place.

Another “yes” vote comes from John Leggatt.

We are opposed to the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening and enhanced pat-downs on privacy grounds. Those procedures are an outrageous violation of our Fourth Amendment rights and an affront to the dignity of all airline passengers.

Please do not underestimate our resolve. We vow to never fly commercially in the United States again, as long as AIT screening and enhanced pat-down procedures remain in force.

Some comments tried to find middle ground. Here’s Cheryl Simon:

Though I certainly understand the concept of Opt-Out Day, I fear that those who are awaiting the opportunity to commit heinous crimes involving the airlines and those who fly will see this as a perfect opportunity to go forward with their plans. All they would have to do is opt out like the thousands of others who plan to participate.

I think if everyone would just calm down about the body scanners and think of the person who sees the images the way you think of your doctor seeing you naked, maybe the horrible pat downs would cease, If something suspicious shows up in the scan, then clearly, that individual does need a physical screening.

Cyn Stoltz took a “can’t-we-all-just-get-along” approach to the problem:

If I were traveling, I would just suck it up and carry on, life is too short to get all fussed over something that someone, somewhere thinks will keep us safer. It is a nuisance and takes more time, but if you want to travel and get where you want to go, then just do it. Continue to protest, make noise about it in the proper forums, but don’t make a big stink about it at the airports and make things miserable for everyone else.

The “no” votes said Opt-Out Day was hurting everyone except the terrorists. Here’s James Camner:

This “opt out” protest is wrong-headed and counterproductive. If people don’t like it, let them blame the terrorists, not our government which is acting responsibly and aggressively to save our lives. Or let them stop flying. But let the rest of us enjoy the increased security that technological advances bring us.

Vanessa Horwell, also in the “no” category, says the act of civil disobedience was selfish and predicted it wouldn’t work.

Unfortunately, travelers can’t have it both ways. We either have stringent security measures in place, ones that can keep pace (or at least anticipate) the advances in devices being assembled – or we run the risk of being blown up. It’s that simple.

Don’t want a pat down? Don’t travel on a plane. Go do the other thing – get a bus or a train. Air travel is a privilege, not a right, and if an organization’s aim is to keep us safe(r), I’m all for it. This is not a question of privacy, it is a question of our personal and collective security.

Some kid whines because of “heavy handling” and the country goes into overdrive about the invasion of their personal space. I don’t want my or family’s safety put at risk because someone isn’t old enough to understand what it’s like to lose a friend from a terrorist attack.

Time to grow up and get real people.. Why don’t you spend your time and resources helping those in need this Thanksgiving instead of “opting-out” of my safety.

Interesting comments.

One thing is certain: With 7 in 10 travelers supporting Opt-Out Day, you don’t want to be flying on Nov. 24.