With a Little Help From the TSA, 2011 Could Be a Flat Year for Travel
With the economy slowly rebounding, 2011 was shaping up to be the best year for travel since the recession began. Prices were expected to rise only slightly, and people were making plans to take a long-postponed vacation.
But now that the
"I'm torn about whether I'll travel more next year or not," says
A majority (46 percent) says they will travel "about the same" as they did this year. Slightly less than a third (30 percent) will travel more, while just less than a quarter (23 percent) will travel less. This contradicts several earlier surveys, which had predicted a significant upswing in travel next year.
Interviews with many of the would-be travelers suggest that concerns about the new body scanning procedures have tempered their once-ambitious 2011 travel plans.
"With the new TSA rules, I will probably do less travel in the U.S.," says
The American travel industry is worried about the negative effects of the widely-criticized screening techniques.
"We need to hear ideas and experiences from travelers to better inform our discussions with policymakers and build a screening process that maximizes security while minimizing the burden on travelers," says
The TSA insists it is listening to air travelers, and has already loosened many of its screening requirements in response to the public outrcy, including exempting pilots, flight attendants and children under 12 from the body scans or enhanced pat-downs. (Children will receive a "modified" pat-down, but the agency declines to say how, exactly, kids will be screened.)
The agency already has a long list of people who are either partially or completely exempt from airport screening, including senior government officials, law enforcement workers, members of the military, ambassadors, as well as ground staff, such as cargo loaders, baggage handlers, fuelers, cabin cleaners and caterers. It also reportedly turned off some body scanners on the Wednesday before
But the government says screenings and pat-downs are necessary for most air travelers, and that it will not back down. And that's making some travelers turn down the opportunity to travel in 2011.
"I am too afraid of the TSA's groping to fly at all right now," says
Indeed, many 2011 itineraries will do their best to skip the TSA body scans.
But the poll results could be interpreted in a different way. It's possible that the old 2011 travel forecasts were simply too optimistic, and that travelers would have pulled back anyway, with or without the TSA's help.
Some travelers say security screenings aren't a factor at all.
"It's only a 13-hour drive to
Travelers say they don't want to give up their long-anticipated 2011 vacations, which they've postponed for several years because of the economy. So while some are sticking to their current plans -- for now, at least -- they're doing their best to work around the system.
"We could go more, but we just won't," she says, adding that maybe the TSA really wants people to fly less.
"Good job," she says. "It's working."
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