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TSA screeners and patdowns could affect the air travel bottom line

Marketplace Staff Nov 24, 2010

TSA screeners and patdowns could affect the air travel bottom line

Marketplace Staff Nov 24, 2010


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Let’s be clear about how important today is in the scheme of air travel and the economy. Today is about as busy as it gets at airports across the country. Besides buying airline tickets and hanging with family, those travelers will be staying at hotels, renting cars and emptying pocketbooks into cash registers across the country.

So when we hear about even more unhappiness than usual in the airport security line, and the possibility of disruptions to protest full body scans and intense pat-downs, we suspect the economy could take a hit.

The head of the Transportation Security Agency, John Pistole, told CBS’s Early Show the TSA is ready for the worst.

JOHN PISTOLE: It really comes down to being prepared, knowing what to expect, and then just working in partnership with the men and women of TSA who just want to get you to your destination safely and securely.

Let’s turn to George Hobica, he’s founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. He’s with us live this morning from New York. Good morning George.

GEORGE HOBICA: Good morning Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: You flew yesterday, right? Did you see much disruption?

HOBICA: No, actually, and some passengers were being directed through the scanners and others were going through the tradition metal checkers. I was with somebody who wanted to be scanned and she wasn’t. She was quite disappointed.

CHIOTAKIS: Is this a big deal?

HOBICA: I think it is. For many passengers they just are not going to fly. But most people, if they have to fly, they’re going to fly. A lot of travel is discretionary, let’s face it.

CHIOTAKIS: There are a good number of people, George, as you know, who are not taking this scanning business very well, or the pat downs for that matter. And some airlines — such as Delta — are even thinking about refunding money if passengers cancel because of that. How does this affect the airlines’ bottom lines?

HOBICA: I think some people are not going to fly. We’re worried at Airfare Watchdog because people are unsubscribing from our email system simply because they say, “We’re not flying anymore,” and I understand that. Some people don’t want to be touched at all, especially near their private parts.

CHIOTAKIS: But everybody can’t do that right? There are some people who have to fly, who have family across the country. They can’t just drive some place right?

HOBICA: Well, they could just say, “I’m not going to see you for a while” until TSA changes their rules. Or they’ll say, “You come see me.” Or they’ll take Amtrak. I took Amtrak from New Orleans to LA not to long ago and it was very comfortable.

CHIOTAKIS: Can the airlines do anything about this?

HOBICA: They really can’t. They can lobby with the TSA. But you know th problem is, there’s a terrorist out there who’s plotting to put some explosives in a body cavity and these machines, these scanners do help detect that kind of explosive. Pat downs don’t obviously, and there’s probably no ideal solution to this problem.

CHIOTAKIS: It’s all in the name of safety. George Hoebica, the founder of airfarewatchdog.com. George, thank you.

HOBICA: You’re welcome.

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