More On The Road Than In The Air For Holiday Travel There is rising concern as the busy holiday travel season approaches that new airport security procedures are going to slow things down. Some people are so annoyed by new scanners and pat-downs, they plan to avoid the airport.
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More On The Road Than In The Air For Holiday Travel

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More On The Road Than In The Air For Holiday Travel

More On The Road Than In The Air For Holiday Travel

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

The holiday season is also a busy travel time. With millions going through the nation's airports, there's growing concern that new security procedures will slow things down.

And as NPR's Sarah Gonzalez reports, some travelers are so annoyed by body scanners and pat-downs that they plan to avoid air travel entirely.

SARAH GONZALEZ: Joshua Garcia lives in Bethesda, Maryland. He usually flies his grandmother in for Thanksgiving. But this year, he's loading up the family and driving seven hours to see her.

Mr. JOSHUA GARCIA: I'm packing up to go with my folks back to Cleveland, Ohio, to see my grandmother. I'm kind of packing a little early this year. Had to take off work early because nobody wants to fly, unfortunately.

GONZALEZ: Garcia says he told his grandmother about the new highly personal pat-downs and the body scanners that see through clothing, to warn her, he says. Now, she refuses to fly now, and so do his parents.

Mr. GARCIA: Actually, my dad is worse than my mom. I mean, he doesn't like being checked like that. He never had to. So rather than argue and fight about it - it's already been a frustrating situation - we're just going to go ahead and take a road trip and go a little earlier.

GONZALEZ: Garcia's family is among millions hitting the road for the holiday this year. AAA's Thanksgiving travel forecast estimates 42 million Americans will visit loved ones; of them, 40 million are expected to drive to their destinations.

(Soundbite of a crowd)

Mr. TROY GREEN (Manager, Public Relations Expertise, Triple A): And that's the largest share of automobile travel ever, for any holiday.

GONZALEZ: That's AAA's Troy Green. He says AAA is predicting that traveling by car will be up 12 percent from last year, and that's in spite of higher gas prices. He says a slightly better economy should also boost air travel, but not by nearly as much.

There's little evidence of it yet, but there's concern that new airport security procedures will increase the wait time at checkpoints and make people less interested in flying.

Geoff Freeman, with the U.S. Travel Association, says the new rules come at a bad time.

Mr. GEOFF FREEMAN (Executive Vice President, U.S. Travel Association): The holiday travel season is obviously one of the most important seasons for the travel industry and the American economy. Whether it's in retail shopping, whether it's in hotels, rental cars, we are deeply concerned about the possible effects of traveler frustration on a willingness to travel.

GONZALEZ: The new airport polices have even spawned an online movement. It asks all holiday travelers to protest the new airport polices by boycotting airports. But if you have to fly, the website encourages passengers to opt out of the full-body imaging scanners, and insist on the new thorough pat-down, in a private room. It's using YouTube videos to spread the word.

(Soundbite of ad)

Unidentified Man: When will you put your foot down? When will you stand up? Opt out on November 24th and every time you fly.

Unidentified Woman: Sir, go ahead and step on in.

Unidentified Man: No, thank you. I opt out.

GONZALEZ: The goal is actually to back up checkpoint lines and cause delays on the busiest air travel day of the year. So if you are among the estimated one and a half million flying for Thanksgiving, you might want to plan on delays beyond the normal holiday rush.

Sarah Gonzalez, NPR News.

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