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Long Thanksgiving holiday ends with no sign of travel disruption

TAMPA — The last day of the busy Thanksgiving travel weekend came and went smoothly Monday with no sign of the much-feared holiday travel nightmare.

At Tampa International Airport on Monday, complaints were of everyday inconveniences, not new security measures, intrusive body scans or full pat-downs.

David McBride of Hernando County said his flight from Detroit was quick and easy — except for a minor delay to de-ice the plane.

Pam Smith of Columbus, Ohio, in Tampa on a business trip, was complimentary to the Transportation Security Administration agents guiding her through the security process.

"TSA was very proactive, saying, 'To avoid a pat-down, do this,' " she said.

Such smooth travel seemed unlikely less than a week ago when talk was of the new TSA security measures — body scans and pat-downs. Critics call the scans too revealing — tantamount to virtual strip searches.

Fear of long lines and delays peaked Wednesday with calls for National Opt-Out Day, urging people to choose pat-downs instead of the scans.

The White House jumped in, as did the TSA's chief, John Pistole.

TSA went on a media blitz to educate travelers about the new security measures.

The major concern was timing: Full pat-downs often take up to four minutes, while a scan can be finished in about 10 seconds.

But massive throngs of passengers choosing to "opt out" never really happened.

About 99 percent of airline passengers chose to use advanced-imaging technology machines, despite the campaign to protest their use, according to the Washington Post.

"Everything went smoothly overall," TSA spokeswoman Kristin Lee said in an e-mail to the Post. "Wait times at more than 450 airports nationwide were consistent with past holiday travel periods, with many airports experiencing minimal lines."

Tampa International Airport didn't appear to have anyone participating in National Opt-Out Day on Wednesday. And most planes were on time or only slightly delayed throughout the four busiest days of the Thanksgiving holiday.

"It's been a very smooth, busy travel season," airport spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan said. "Our passenger numbers are up, we're seeing more people parking. We're very pleased."

On Monday, the second busiest day of the holiday for travel, TIA had about 25,000 departing passengers, up about 5,000 from average.

That is an increase over last year, and TIA projects a 2 percent increase over last Thanksgiving in departing passengers, Geoghagan said.

"All in all, we are collecting a lot of compliments," she said.

Long Thanksgiving holiday ends with no sign of travel disruption 11/29/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 29, 2010 9:02pm]
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