By George Donnelly
We Wont Fly.com
Thanksgiving travelers opted out of commercial air travel in large numbers across the country on Opt Out Day as reports came in of eerily quiet airports, shorter than usual security lines, swamped bus and train stations and 94 per cent of travelers opting to drive instead of fly.
We Won’t Fly has received multiple reports of the federal government’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shutting down full body scanners, selecting fewer people for secondary screening, using less invasive patdowns and being unusually friendly and helpful to flyers.
“Almost everyone is being sent through the metal detectors,” commented flyer and We Won’t Fly fan Stephanie H. on Facebook. “Also, a huge bank of cameras that wasn’t there 2 weeks ago (also last week, everyone went through the scanners).”
We Won’t Fly achieved its primary goal for Opt Out Day. Millions of travelers opted out of flying entirely, exactly as our campaign urges them to do. The TSA rolled back its security theater, if only for a day. Working in tandem with allies across the nation in a fledgling grassroots movement, We Won’t Fly has, in just over two weeks, achieved the following victories:
(1) Travelers voted en masse with their feet on Opt Out Day. The American Automobile Association (AAA) reports that 94 per cent of Thanksgiving travelers opted out of flying altogether in favor of driving. That’s a significant increase over last year. Roads and train and bus stations were swamped while airports were eerily quiet.
(2) The TSA dialed back its security theater at airports around the country on Opt Out Day, November 24. Reports are that TSA checkpoints reduced their exposure to public backlash with local changes such as: (1) turning off scanners; (2) diverting travelers to traditional non-invasive screening; (3) selecting fewer people for secondary screening; and (4) using less invasive patdowns. Of those who flew and were selected for the scanners, many opted out.
(3) The TSA retreated on “enhanced” patdowns for children with a vague statement that they could get “modified” patdowns in certain cases. They also agreed to exempt pilots from the new “enhanced” patdowns and full body scanners.
(4) TSA Administrator John Pistole was forced to justify the scanning and groping on national television over and over again. He toned down Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Janet Napolitano’s initial statement telling concerned individuals to not fly if they didn’t like the new security theater.
(5) Pistole admitted that passenger dignity is an important consideration, echoing one of We Won’t Fly’s most basic objections.
(6) With little time and a shoestring budget, We Won’t Fly organized educational outreaches at 27 airports around the country where members of our network distributed flyers about the new TSA security theater. We appeared in print, on the radio and on camera around the nation and in 12 international markets as necessary to tell the traveling public that they are not alone in their repulsion to invasive TSA procedures.
(7) In just 8 days, public opinion moved from 81 per cent support of the new TSA security theater to 61 per cent disapproval. Zogby’s latest poll reports 48 per cent seeking alternatives to flying in support of We Won’t Fly’s boycott.
“For weeks we’ve been telling people to avoid air travel altogether.” said We Won’t Fly co-founder Jim Babb in a CNN interview. “Clearly, many heeded our warning to avoid both the nude scan and the groping.”
We Won’t Fly, and indeed many allies across the nation, have made enormous progress in educating the public. The TSA has changed its tone. It stepped back from its new security theater, raising the question of whether it is necessary at all. Millions joined our boycott. The TSA blinked on Opt Out Day. Our efforts continue.
We Won’t Fly is a consumer grassroots effort to encourage travelers to stop flying until the new TSA security theater has been replaced with real passenger security, and to demand that airlines join with concerned consumers so that, together, we can develop effective solutions that don’t trample our basic human dignity and privacy. For more information, visit WeWontFly.com.