With a little help from TSA, 2011 could be a flat year for travel

With the economy slowly rebounding, 2011 was shaping up to be the best year for travel since the recession began. Prices were expected to rise only slightly, and people were making plans to take a long-postponed vacation.

But now that the Transportation Security Administration has introduced full-body scanners at many American airports, and subjected those who opt out of the machines to an “enhanced” pat-down, the 2011 outlook has changed, say travelers.

“I’m torn about whether I’ll travel more next year or not,” says Jeff Cohen, a stock trader from Austin, Tex. “I tend to go on a couple of large trips a year and was planning a major trip for the first half of 2011, to somewhere exotic. But the recent TSA crackdown has me rethinking that.”
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From the frontlines on Opt-Out Day: “Today was different from anything that I have ever experienced in my years of flying”

Edmond Valencia had an 8 a.m. flight out of Albuquerque today, and since this is one of the busiest days for air travel, he arrived with time to spare.

It’s a good thing.

There were protesters at Albuquerque Sunport holding signs that said, “The Terrorists are Winning,” and “Go Ahead and Sexually Assault Another 2 Year Old.”

They were being interviewed by print and TV media. The man stated that he is a Marine veteran of three Iraq tours. He felt that the liberties he fought for were being eroded by the actions of the TSA.

Then it was Valencia’s turn to go through the security line. He flies about once a week, so he’s used to the screening procedures. Or so he thought.
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Everything you need to know if you’re flying today (but were afraid to ask)

It’s National Opt-Out Day. Ready to fly?

Here are a few things you should know.

Will my flight be delayed? If you’re flying out of one of these airports, it should be smooth sailing, according to Flightstats (numbers in brackets are average on-time departure performance during the past three Thanksgiving holidays).

1. Salt Lake City (89.00 percent)
2. Minneapolis (86.61 percent)
3. Portland, Ore. (86.43 percent)
4. San Diego (85.00 percent)
5. Seattle (84.88 percent)

Here are the five worst:

1. Miami (67.03 percent)
2. Dallas (69.23 percent)
3. New York (71.04 percent)
4. Atlanta (71.19 percent)
5. Chicago (O’Hare) (72.32 percent)
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How to survive a flight on National Opt-Out Day

Now what?

The TSA won’t change the way it screens passengers, even when threatened with a major protest action on one of the busiest air travel days of the year.

How do you survive what, even under ideal circumstances, is a dreadful day to be flying?
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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.

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.
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