Delays or Damp Squibs Part 1
I’m just about to leave Chicago to go to the airport to fly back to the UK. This is the busiest day of the year to fly in the U.S. with 1.8 million people expected to fly in and out of Chicago over the next few days. There is some bad weather around which might delay flights but the main talking point is whether the opt-out of the body scanning will take place. These scanners are probably coming to the UK. Will our attitude mirror what is happening in the US?
To recap, body scanning is being objected to because of a combination of privacy and health issues. Flyers are being urged to opt for a pat-down instead of going through the machines. One estimate is that it would take 6 hours to pat-down 100 flyers but this seems exaggerated. The objections to pat-downs are that they are invasive because every part of the body is felt for potentially concealed weapons. One objector had a tee shirt with “Don’t mess with my junk” emblazoned on it. This morning, according to CNN, an elderly man at Tampa Airport in Florida wearing an arm brace was asked to take off his jumper for a pat down causing him pain and discomfort.
For days, the talk shows and news bulletins have been awash with this story. North Korea, Ireland and New Zealand stories are relegated to discussing this issue. Today’s USA Today has arguments from both sides and has had long stories about it for days as have localised newspapers. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State says she would object to pat-downs and the head of the agency charged with airport security (TSA) who has the unfortunate name of John Pistole – pronounced pistol – has varied his position on the issue over the last few days. One minute he said, there would be no changes. Now he seems less sure.
What lawgivers and officials haven’t recognised is how to manage this PR problem. They have let the objectors lead and the impression of headless chickens is what comes to mind. It isn’t helped by the amount of money that the manufacturers of scanners have thrown at lobbyists in Washington DC in the last eighteen months or so.
Well, today’s the big day so what is happening so far?
Very little. It’s 11.30am on the east coast of America and so far the whole opt-out day is a flop. A programme called The View (a bit like Loose Women) is on the TV and they are discussing it with the head of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mullen. The news programmes seem a bit perplexed. They thought they had a story and now they seem unsure with how to handle it.
I’ll let you know later in the day what I found when I get to the airport.