Opt Out at ORD-9/23
I've counted myself fortunate to have avoided (to a great extent through deliberate choice of airports and security checkpoints) being in the position to have to make "the choice." Unfortunately my luck ran out at ORD in Terminal 1 last Thursday.
The elite security line was quite lengthy, so I headed to the checkpoint by Gates B 4-6 which is usually pretty quick. Mistake. When I arrived, the queue was about 60% full because only 1 lane was open. I noticed the backscatter to the right of the WTMD lane, but it was not in use. Nevertheless I kept a wary eye on it as the queue progressed. The NOS remained out of service the entire time.
It took 20 minutes to get to the front of the queue. Placed my belongings in the tubs, sent them off into the x-ray machine and was standing in front of the WTMD ready to go through, when a female smurf appeared to my right and started loudly barking, "everyone take off your belts, watches and other metal objects".
I had not removed my watch because I have been using a Michael Kors ceramic watch as my travel watch and it has never alarmed any WTMD in any airport. She looked at me and barked "Take off your watch." So I started to unclasp it and moved back towards the belt to send it through behind the rest of my belongings and resumed my position in front of the WTMD. She pointed to the NOS and barked "you will be going through this scanner". I stopped in my tracks and said "No, I was next in line to go through this one", gesturing to the WTMD.
To which she said in a belligerent tone "I said you will be going through this scanner (pointing at the NOS). I looked at her and said "No, I will not." She said "if I tell you to use this scanner, this is the one you have to use." I replied firmly, "NO. I will not subject myself to unnecessary radiation or allow a government employee to see me naked just to get on a flight." She looked very peeved and pointed to the NOS, and said "walk through there and wait on the other side, if you are refusing to go through the scanner, someone will have give you a pat down search."
In a level voice I said, "I already told you that I am not going through that machine. I opt out", to which she retorted "well, you have to go through it to get to the pat-down area." I pointed to the WTMD and said " I can walk though this to go to the patdown area. I also need someone to gather my belongings and bring them there so they can remain within my view." She barked, "the procedure says you have to walk though that scanner (pointing at the NOS) to go to the pat-down area and we have to follow that procedure." My comment about my belongings was ignored.
My reply "I have the right to opt out of going through that machine and have chosen to do so. I will not walk through that machine to get to the other side. If this means I do not fly today, so be it." (Note: I was heading home and had booked the ticket less than 24 hours previously so could have cancelled without penalty - and taken a flight home out of Midway that evening...). She rolled her eyes and called someone on the (walkie-talkie?) and said in a very sarcastic manner "we have a female opt-out and she is NOT happy about it. I need a female asist."
By this point, my belongings had long since gone through and were piled up on the other side. I was particularly concerned because I had both my laptop and my Ipad in one tub. I asked again for someone to gather my belongings and bring them to me. The TSO on the other side of the WTMD said "you will be able to see them where you are going." The female smurf opened the wheelchair gate and motioned me over to the holding pen. I pointed at my belongings on the belt (rollaboard, briefcase and two tubs, which were causing a pileup) and asked "may I get my stuff or can someone bring it over here?" Her reply - "No, you stand right here until we say you can move." Fortunately, my stuff was now within my vision, although it had been unattended at the end of the belt for at least 5 minutes before I was allowed though the wheelchair door.
A new female smurf arrived to pat me down She had a pleasant, professional demeanor. Very firm on pressure on the back side and ran her hands into the cleft of my buttocks. I was wearing a skirt and was surprised (not complaining though!) that she only ran her hands down the front of my thighs on the front of my skirt and did not run them on the center to check my inner thigh area. After they tested the swab, they told me I was free to go. My belongings were not checked or swabbed. Patdown plus swab check took less time than the standoff with the barker had.
It has taken me a few days to post because the whole incident left me quite unsettled, more so than I expected. While my pat-down was not intrusive compared to what we've read about other's experiences, I am appalled at having to allow a government employee run their hands over my body simply to get on a plane -- and infuriated at the manner and tone taken with me by the original barker. I did speak to a supervisior before leaving the checkpoint and let them know that my right to opt out was initially refused. I am also writing to my Congressional representatives to relay my experience.
This will also be an important topic to bring up at the meeting some of us have with Delta executives during next month's DO. They need to clearly understand the lost revenue they are facing if long-term high value customers choose to cut back on travel rather than be subjected to this bizarre choice of allowing ourselves to be subjected to radiation/allowing government employees to view us nude or run their hands over our body - simply to get on one of their planes. Note: I was not flying DL on this occasion, but the DL DO will be a valuable opportunity to discuss this with senior airline execs.
Last edited by pbjag; Sep 26, 10 at 1:51 pm