LGA flyers have no problems with X-ray scanners

Passengers stand in the security checkpoint lines at LaGuardia Airport. Despite the internet campaign not to fly on Nov. 24, many passengers still took to the air for the holiday weekend. Photo by Ellis Kaplan.
By Rebecca Henely

Despite the national debate over the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s new security measures and threats of boycotts, travelers leaving from and arriving at LaGuardia Airport said they had few problems on the ground the day before Thanksgiving and no protests materialized.

“So far it’s been good,” said Corona resident Andre Diaz, 34, who was going to Florida with his two sons and nephew.

Criticism has been heating up over the new millimeter wave and backscatter X-ray scanners, which create a silhouetted image of the passenger’s body and any illegal items they may be wearing beneath their clothes. While the face and genitals are blurred and the image is displayed in another room and then immediately deleted, some critics consider the imaging invasive.

Those who opt out of the scan are asked to go through an enhanced pat-down, which has also been criticized. A Virginia man, Brian Sodergren, and the founders of wewontfly.com, also called for Nov. 24 to be “National Opt Out Day,” in which travelers were urged not to fly on that day.

Despite the movement, LaGuardia remained busy. Tom Bosco, general manager of LaGuardia, said the airport was employing extra staff and expected a 3 percent increase during the five days around Thanksgiving. Temperate weather also kept travel smooth — the only problem being a system-wide computer glitch at Spirit Airlines, which meant the airline’s employees had to process the passengers manually.

Marisa Maola, federal security director for LaGuardia, said TSA workers were making an effort to communicate with passengers before and during the pat-down. She said there were no plans for modification of the scanners and pat-downs at this time.

“The changes are necessary,” she said.

Diaz said he was concerned about the potential health risk from the radiation in the scanners, but he was not worried about his picture leaking out or anyone seeing the picture.

Dean Schapman, 28, a Manhattan resident planning to head to Memphis to see his sister, said he did not want to get an enhanced patdown, but would not protest if needed.

“I will gladly go through the full body scanner to avoid the patdown,” he said.

Ira Shetta, 33, a Chicago resident who was planning to visit family in Manhattan and Long Island, said her travel day was smooth and uneventful. She was taken aside to go through the full-body scanner, which she said took less than 10 seconds. She said she was not worried about anyone seeing it or the pictures getting out.

“There are much bigger things in the world being sought after,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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