Security measures at Buffalo Niagara International Airport are about to get a bit more hands-on.
Starting Friday, travelers who choose not to go through full-body scanners will get a revised pat-down inspection as part of security measures at airports nationwide.
The enhanced pat-down routine is being established to prevent such potentially dangerous items as improvised explosive devices from being concealed on the body, said Ann Davis, spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration.
That didn’t sit well with travelers waiting for flights Tuesday at the Cheektowaga airport.
“Can’t they think of anything better? Can’t they find another way?” asked David Fox, 34, of Scottsdale, Ariz. “The whole [idea] of security, like that, it’s kind of like we’re animals.”
Fox said he didn’t object to the use of the airport’s five full-body scanners. The first was unveiled in August.
“I don’t care what they see, as long as they don’t touch,” he said.
The new pat-downs are expected to begin Friday at the airport, a law enforcement official who is familiar with the situation told The Buffalo News.
“It is an enhanced pat-down. … They will be patting down certain targeted areas of the body,” the official said.
While Davis declined to describe the pat-downs in detail, the Boston Herald reported Tuesday that the searches have been in effect at Boston’s Logan International Airport and Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport.
The Herald said the searches include “front of the hand, slide-down screening” that would include the breast and genital areas.
The current pat-down searches, which are administered after a passenger passes through a metal detector, don’t bother Vidya Baliga, 32, of Cheektowaga.
“I think the ones they have right now [are] OK, but [the new one] is a bit more intrusive,” she said.
Not all travelers at the airport felt that way, though.
“I feel the way the world is today, unfortunately, you have to do it,” said Mary Ann Carey, 79, of Williamsville. “I don’t mind standing with my arms out.”
Carey’s husband, John, said he agreed.
“I grin and bear it,” he said. “It’s needed, unfortunately. The state of the country demands it.”
But Carey said he gets aggravated when security officials search him, detect his artificial hip and then continue to search his entire body.
“I think they could use a little discretion,” he said.
A 21-year-old Yemeni-American woman from Lackawanna, who asked that her name not be revealed, said she feels as if she’s been a target the two times she has flown on an airplane. The woman, who was wearing hijab, including a head scarf, sat with her Muslim family in the airport’s lobby. She said she thinks some security measures are necessary for national security.
But she said she prefers the current pat-down procedure because of the attention the full-body scanners draw to her if they go off. She said the new system probably wouldn’t change her concerns.
“Well, they’re going to do that to us anyway,” she said. “If they suspect something, it’s one thing, but if it’s because of the way you dress, it’s different.”
A regional privacy advocate did not applaud the idea of choosing between a full-body scanner he feels violates privacy and the enhanced pat-down method.
“I think it’s excessive. Not only that, I think it’s extraordinarily intrusive,” said John A. Curr, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s local office. “That’s kind of like saying, ‘Would you rather be slapped or punched?’”
Earlier this month, a commercial airline pilot flying out of Memphis, Tenn., left the airport after refusing to undergo a pat-down search or full-body scan.
When asked if the government anticipates complaints, the law enforcement official said, “We won’t know until it is deployed in Buffalo, and we see how people react.”