- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

CHICAGO | The lines moved smoothly at airports around the country Wednesday afternoon despite an Internet campaign to get Thanksgiving travelers to gum up the works on one of the busiest days of the year by refusing full-body scans.

The Transportation Security Administration said very few passengers opted out. And there were only scattered protesters — including, presumably, a man seen walking around the Salt Lake City airport in a skimpy, Speedo-style bathing suit, and a woman wearing a bikini in Los Angeles.

After days of tough talk on the Internet and warnings of possible delays, some passengers decided to go to the airport especially early and were pleasantly surprised. Retirees Bill and Margaret Selfridge arrived three hours ahead of schedule at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for their flight to Washington. It took only 10 minutes to get through the checkpoint at 8 a.m.

“Now we get to drink a lot of coffee,” Bill Selfridge said.

Catherine Pfeiffer, 40, of Austin, Texas, changed planes at the Atlanta airport and said she had no major objection to the security screenings: “If you don’t want to go through the hassle, don’t fly.”

A passenger at Palm Beach International Airport is patted down by a TSA worker on Wednesday in West Palm Beach, Fla. Security lines moved quickly the day before Thanksgiving. (Associated Press)
A passenger at Palm Beach International Airport is patted down by a ... more >

A loosely organized effort dubbed National Opt-Out Day planned to use fliers, T-shirts and, in one case, a Scottish kilt to protest the intrusive X-ray scans and pat-downs. The security screenings have been lampooned on “Saturday Night Live” and mocked on T-shirts, bumper stickers and underwear emblazoned “Don’t Touch My Junk,” from a line uttered by a defiant traveler in San Diego.

But the weather was shaping up as a much bigger threat, especially in the West: A ferocious, early-season snowstorm pummeled the Rockies, bringing whiteout conditions to parts of the region and closing roads. It was expected to delay air travelers and people who probably thought they were doing the smart thing by driving. Also, heavy rain was forecast in the Midwest. And windy weather in New England could create snags.

More than 40 million people plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA, with more than 1.6 million flying — a 3.5 percent increase from last year.

Two protesters at the Phoenix airport held signs decrying “porno-scans” and drew sidelong glances from some passengers but words of support from others, who told them, “Thank you for being here.”

The protesters, husband and wife Patricia Stone and John Richards of Chandler, Ariz., said the TSA has taken security too far.

“Just because you buy a plane ticket doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to awful security measures. It’s not a waiver of your rights,” said Mrs. Stone, 44. “The TSA is security theater. They’re not protecting us.”

But at security lines at the airport, one of the nation’s 10 busiest, lines were moving quickly and steadily. In fact, wait times for security checks at major U.S. airports from San Francisco to New York were 20 minutes or less Wednesday morning, according to the TSA, and no serious disruptions were reported

Asked early Wednesday whether the protests were having any noticeable effect, TSA chief John Pistole told the Associated Press, “Not that we’ve seen overall. I mean we’ve, you know, had a couple of one-offs here and there.”

“So far, so good,” he said. “No long wait times or anything.”