Air travel smooth despite body-scan uproar

November 25, 2010 8:56:05 AM PST
Travelers took to the roads and skies on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

More than a quarter million people were expected to go through O'Hare and Midway Wednesday.

The 'National Opt Out Day,' organized on the Internet by those protesting new body scanners, did not lead to gridlock in Chicago. Few were opting for the longer, hand pat-down over the quick body scan and those who were scanned reported little drama.

"Just walk right through, take off your shoes, your belt, anything gaudy, that's it," traveler Brittany Alexander told ABC 7.

At O'Hare, some protesters handed out fliers urging people to refuse the full-body scanning procedures in favor of a not much longer hand pat-down.

"Taking an airline flight, buying an airline ticket, wanting to fly somewhere, that's not criminal. But people are being treated as criminals, searched illegally," said Andrew Delano, a body scanner protester.

But on Wednesday afternoon few people seemed to heed his message.

"It's for everybody's safety. Everybody needs to just mellow out about it, and let them do it," said Kimberly Rathbun, passenger.

Lines were moving Wednesday at O'Hare and tempers were cool.

"It is not hectic at all. It is really laid back. There is no stress," said passenger Nicole McJilton.

"People were just interested in getting home to their families, their friends. The officers are here to help," said Jim Fotenos, TSA spokesperson.

With all body scanners not yet rolled out, most passengers are still using standard metal detectors. In fact, some of the 23 O'Hare body scanners are not being used. It is not clear if that is an effort to dampen the protests.

"I have only seen a few scanners up and running and just a few pat-downs." ," said Jel Stewart, Travelocity.

Despite protesters' efforts, the body scanner backlash and security gridlock some had feared did not appear to be happening.

"Whatever's going to get me on my flight safe to my destination is what's important," said Paula Ashbaugh, passenger.

That is not to say everyone was thrilled with the new devices, a low-level X-ray to give screeners a vague image of a naked body. Some said they had no choice but to grin and bear it.

"I don't know how the body scan is, but I don't want somebody touching me," said Patti Friedman, passenger.

Nationwide, the Air Transport Association expected a 32-percent increase in Thanksgiving travel over last year, and the travel website Orbitz.com said O'Hare was the busiest airport in the country Wednesday.

The rainy weather caused some delays at O'Hare, but there were no major problems.

Holiday travelers hit roads

Jam-packed highways greeted Thanksgiving travelers Wednesday. AAA is predicting the number of Americans traveling on the roads is up 12-percent from last year.

On Wednesday afternoon, the volume increased on the roads and the pace slowed down, especially in the south suburbs where people were also dealing with rough weather.

Millions of Americans have already started their Thanksgiving holiday with more than 42 million travelers hitting the roads.

Ninety four-percent of people traveling for the holiday are going by car. Shana Wendt was traveling with a big group with people to Indianapolis and had to keep the young passengers occupied.

"We make up a lot of songs and we rehearse the alphabet, bring mini-DVD players and coloring books," said Wendt.

Adding to the volume on the road was rough weather, especially closer to Interstate 80 where rain and sleet caused spinouts, slowing down travelers. Drivers were cautioned to stay safe when they get behind the wheel.

"You got to watch the bridge overpasses and stuff like that right now. They're going to be more slippery," said Tim, truck driver. "It's getting to that time of year, gotta be careful, improve your driving distances. Watch out for everybody else more so, be more defensive."

"Don't be in a rush, take your time, you will get there. You don't want to take any risks, you want to be with family on Thanksgiving - not in the hospital," said Josephine Tucci, motorist.

Jimmy Tiller was just heading out in the traffic Wednesday afternoon, making the 700-plus mile trip with his nephew and other relatives to Alabama.

"I will probably have to keep them awake," said Tiller.

"People want to see family and friends, even the higher gas prices, about 30 cents higher than this time last year, are not putting people off at all, so people really want to hop in that car and take a long-awaited vacation," said Beth Mosher, AAA spokesperson.


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