Will Pat-Downs Cut Into Airline Travel?

As if airlines needed more problems as they struggle back toward profitability, the current furor over pat-downs and full-body scans at the airport is threatening to weaken their business.

In a Zogby International poll conducted in recent days, 48 percent of respondents said the more intrusive security measures will prompt them “to choose a different mode of transportation whenever possible.”

And, worse news for airlines, this opinion isn’t confined to people who don’t do much flying in any case. Rather, 42 percent of respondents who are frequent fliers said they would look for another way of getting places when that’s possible.

Sixty-one percent of those polled oppose the use of full-body scans and pat-downs by Transportation Security Administration personnel.

Forty-eight percent regard such treatment as a violation of their privacy rights; 32 percent believe it constitutes “sexual harassment.” Frequent fliers were just as likely as respondents in general to hold these adverse opinions about airport-security practices.

Part of the problem is that people don’t see a trade-off of less personal privacy for more security in the air. Fifty-two percent of all respondents (and 53 percent of frequent fliers) don’t believe the new measures will prevent terrorist activity.