National Opt-Out Day a Bust

Of the Two Million Travelers Flying For the Holidays, Small Percentage Opt-Out

ByABC News
November 24, 2010, 3:10 PM

Nov. 24, 2010— -- Travelers flying for the Thanksgiving holiday Wednesday headed to the airport extra early, expecting delays and protestors participating in National Opt-Out Day.

Despite an Internet campaign to encourage passengers to slow up security lines by "opting out" -- refusing full-body scanners -- on one of the busiest travel days of the year, the Transportation Security Administration reported that very few of the two million passengers flying Wednesday chose time-consuming pat downs over scans.

Most of the delays reported at airports were weather-related Wednesday. High winds caused some problems around New York, and that vicious storm that blanketed the Seattle area with snow earlier this week is making its way through the Midwest. Transportation officials have warned traffic could continue to be a problem along the East Coast on I-95.

As of Wednesday evening, flights were operating approximately 40 minutes late at both airports. And in Chicago, rain backed up the runways at O'Hare bringing delay times up to 90 minutes.

Genevieve Shaw Brown, Senior Editor at Travelocity, said it "turns out Opt-Out Day was a bust."

"The vast majority of people have gone through security with no issues whatsoever, and in fact, in many airports security lines are moving at a pretty fast pace," she said. "It seems that in the end, travelers just want to get to their destinations as quickly as they possibly can with as little drama as possible."

The instigator of the Opt-Out movement, Brian Sodergren, said he's "happy that the message is getting out there."

"We're finally having a debate about how far we are willing to go in terms of privacy and security," he said.

Jason Rockwood was one of the few who decided to opt-out today, "in order to draw awareness to the fact that the procedures they're using are...undignified and sort of invasive," he said. "This is a way about creating dialogue and getting people to think about these rules, and think about whether they're really making us safer or if they're just forcing us to do things."

A few protestors chose to show some skin -- like a man wearing only a skimpy Speedo in Salt Lake City and a woman stripping down to a bikini at Los Angeles International Airport. From Phoenix to Atlanta, those disagreeing with the TSA's controversial scanning system and invasive pat down procedures carried signs in protest.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport said 39 (out of 47,000) fliers opted out of the scanners. All continued to their flights after being screened, while at LAX, there were 113 opt-outs across eight terminals, which was less than 1 percent of the total travelers screened.

Other passengers just tried their best to get through security as quickly as possible, and hoped to avoid what they thought would be long security lines.

Most were in for pleasant surprises -- Brown said Travelocity's spotters at 12 of the nation's busiest airports reported security wait times were "usually between 10 and 20 minutes, which is pretty standard on an average day, and pretty good for Thanksgiving."

David Fishof, who wears loafers that slip on and off easily and no socks when he flies to move quickly through airport security, said he arrived at New York's LaGuardia Airport two hours before his flight Wednesday.