Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday travel headaches include body scans, high gas prices

Those are some of the things travelers could face if they head out of Northeastern Wisconsin for the Thanksgiving holiday.

An improving economy means more people are hitting the road and the skies this week, said Tom Frymark, president of AAA Wisconsin. The association says 42.2 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles for Thanksgiving

"Many (Americans) are in a better financial situation this Thanksgiving than a year ago," Frymark said on the organization's website.

If there's a main difference on the travel scene this year, it's what fliers will encounter at the nation's airports. The federal Transportation Security Administration has instituted stricter passenger-screening procedures, including aggressive pat-down searches and machines that see through clothing, at almost 70 large airports, including Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.

The controversial body-scanning devices haven't been installed at Austin Straubel International Airport in Ashwaubenon, but travelers will see them in Milwaukee as well as Chicago O'Hare, Detroit Metro and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Getting through security at Austin Straubel otherwise should seem like business as usual, said Timothy Decker, federal security director for airports in Northeastern Wisconsin.

"Will there be a wait at security? Maybe a 10-minute wait, but only at the busiest times," he said. "Otherwise, previous year and this year should be pretty much the same."

Critics of the fresh procedures complain that they are invasive, and some worry that they'll cause delays. Frequent travelers, unions, passengers groups and civil libertarians are filing lawsuits and urging boycotts of new procedures.

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