Airport workers said Thanksgiving weekend, traditionally one of the most traveled of the year, was uneventful in Columbus. But passengers gave mixed reviews about new and highly criticized security measures that include more invasive pat-downs and full-body scanners.
“It’s basically being molested,” said Naomi David, a second-year in international business who flew from Columbus to Chicago on Wednesday. “They literally pat down every part of you, from your arms to your butt.”
Complaints like David’s have been reported across the country, but officials at the Transportation Security Administration said they don’t plan to change the new measures. In a conference call last week, John Pistole, the TSA administrator, said the organization had received about 2,000 complaints regarding the new technology.
“Some of those complaints were, ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I was uncomfortable,'” Pistole said. “We believe we’ve addressed it as best we can, making sure the screener doesn’t see the person.”
Other students traveling for the holidays said that even with the additional security measures, lines were quick.
“It didn’t take that long to get in and out of security,” said Joe Langley, a third-year in history. It “took about five to seven minutes to get my boarding pass and go through security.”
Cheri Tolle, security manager at Port Columbus International Airport, said the new measures didn’t spark protests or disruptions.
“It was pretty much business as usual,” she said. “Totally uneventful.”
Tolle said she expects the same for the December holiday season.
“We don’t anticipate any problems,” Tolle said. “All our new changes will stand.”
Langley said security workers patted him down because he forgot to throw away a tube of toothpaste in his bag before going through the scanner.
“I didn’t really mind the pat-down,” he said. “It wasn’t that bad.”
The TSA implemented the new security measures after a failed bombing attempt aboard a plane in Detroit on Christmas Day last year. In that case, a Nigerian man allegedly hid explosives in his underwear but failed to detonate them.
The full-body scanners take a slightly blurred image of a person’s body to detect weapons. Passengers can opt out of the scanners but will then face a thorough pat-down.
David said many people opted out of the scanners when she traveled, which slowed down the lines, taking about 30 minutes to get through the security.
Christine Licata, a fourth-year in political science, said she would rather go through a scanner than be patted down.
“I personally don’t see why walking (through) a scanner is such a big deal,” she said. “No one is touching me, and there’s no room for any inappropriate or unprofessional behavior.”
The TSA does not have plans to eliminate the pat-down procedures, but officials are assessing alternatives, Pistole said.
“If we use a less invasive pat down, then what can we achieve? Will we get the same outcome?” Pistole said. “That really is the challenge we have between security and privacy.”