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Holiday travel brings headaches

Molly Madden | Tuesday, November 30, 2010

When flying from airports in Chicago and Seattle over Thanksgiving break, junior Didi Thekkethala was asked to go through a scanner that X-rayed her entire body before proceeding to board her flight.

“You step into this really big machine and have to hold your hands up above your head for seven seconds,” she said. “Once you step out of the machine, they made us wait another two minutes while they looked at the X-ray image. A lot of people had to go back through because they had tissues in their pockets.

“The whole experience was kind of freaky.”

Thekkethala was one of many Notre Dame students who faced heightened security measures in response to new Transportation Security Administration guidelines.

Thekkethala said the process of scanning every individual caused several delays.

“It slowed security down a lot,” she said. “I would have definitely missed my flight if it hadn’t already been delayed.

“The full body scanner is going to make everything take a lot longer.”

The length of time airport security checks take is a constant complaint of travelers when discussing the worth of the multiple security checks at airports. Thekkethala said she found the new security measures to be “time-consuming,” but they did make her feel safer.

“I’ve experienced stricter security measures when I’ve flown in Europe,” she said. “These new scanners and other security are just steps the U.S. airlines are taking that probably need to happen anyway.”

Junior Mitch Hemann also had to go through the full body scanner this past summer at the Minneapolis airport. He said the experience was “quick and painless,” and it wasn’t bothersome because every single passenger went through the scanner.

“A lot of people wonder if all these security measures are necessary when flying,” he said. “I don’t think the TSA would want to create more work for themselves … They have a better idea about security than I do.”

But body scanners weren’t the only additional security measure in place over the holiday.

After sophomore Christina Mezes checked her bags and walked through a metal detector at the Toronto airport, she faced yet another security check.

“I had to get my hands swabbed,” Mezes said. “They told me they were checking for any chemical substances, which I didn’t even know they did at airports”

Junior Taylor Popplewell said she had an “invasive” pat down before she boarded her flight for Minneapolis out of Cancun, Mexico.

“They separated us into groups of girls and boys and everyone had to get individually pat down at the gate, even after we had done the regular security checks,” Popplewell said. “When we were in the Minneapolis airport, the U.S. officials were pulling people out of the line for random searches.”

Although Popplewell said that she found the pat down in Mexico awkward, she appreciated the safety measures.

“I definitely think these measures are necessary for international flights, but I don’t think they need to do quite as invasive searches for domestic flights,” she said.

Sophomore Selina Okonokhua flew from South Bend to Atlanta to go home for Thanksgiving and saw an increase in security at the Atlanta airport.

“There were 300,000 people flying into that airport on the same day so there was a lot of security,” she said. “TSA would randomly pull people out of the security line and take them to rooms where they would be searched. I saw five people pulled out while I was waiting.”

Okonokhua said she finds all the increase security “annoying,” but said flyers should know what to expect when they fly during the holiday season.

“People know they’re going to be pat down and searched when they go to the airport,” she said.