Hey, US Air

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November 6, 2010

US Airways
ATTN: Customer Relations
4000 E Sky Harbor Blvd
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am surprised that I have not heard back from you regarding the letter dated Oct 25th that I sent to you and also posted on the internet. A similar letter that I sent to Orbitz has received a response even though Orbitz does not provide a mailing address specific for customer service and the letter was mailed to their headquarters in Chicago.

To re-cap, I am writing regarding my plans for Christmas travel with my family from Washington, DC to [a city in] CA. I purchased my tickets on your airline but recently learned that BWI has backscatter scanners as primary screening for all passengers. Since I was not alerted of this gross invasion of privacy when I purchased my tickets, I am hoping that you will address this in one of two ways:

  1. Refund the entire amount of my ticket so that I can use the money to make alternative arrangements.
  2. Or, cover my expenses to fly to BWI from another airport without the scanners installed so that I can make the flight that I’ve already paid for.

Orbitz has already agreed to waive their own fees to accommodate my situation.

Once again, I must reiterate that solving my holiday travel plans is only part of what I hope to accomplish by writing to you. This is a much bigger issue, and I was in tears earlier today as I contemplated the corner that the airline industry has backed me into. Since I wrote the previous letter, things have gotten worse, not better. Last Friday, the TSA announced that it will be using a much more aggressive "pat down" on passengers that "opt out" of the scanners. The scanners enable a complete stranger to see me and my child naked. This is a breach of my 4th Amendment right to security in my own person. As the TSA has pointed out, this is not mandatory, because I can choose to undergo a pat-down instead. However, a pat-down is still a violation of my 4th Amendment rights. But now, the new pat down is nothing short of sexual assault and molestation.

So my choices are:

  1. to be a victim of voyeurism,
  2. to be a victim of sexual assault, or
  3. to not fly.

This is a really easy decision for me: I won’t be flying if I have to go through a scanner or be frisked in order to do so. Furthermore, no child of mine will fly if they must be either ogled or felt-up by a stranger. For now, it seems that I still have the option of flying out of airports that don’t have the scanners installed. However, since the TSA is planning on doubling the number of scanners at airports in 2011, I fear that I will no longer be able to fly. In other words, if you don’t act to reverse the course, you will lose me as a customer.

Don’t tell me that this is not your fault: you are, by definition, complicit in the TSA actions. The airline industry has not stood up for your customers in decades by allowing warrantless bag searches, the frisking of passengers with medical devices, as well as the more recent humiliations and inconveniences of airline travel in the last decade. This has already cut into your bottom line: I’m sure you’re aware that it used to be worthwhile to take a plane from Washington to New York, or similar short distances, but now many people choose to drive 4, 8, or 12 hours to avoid the hassle of flying. As the scanners were installed over the past year, the airline industry has sunk to a new low by failing to protect the basic human rights of your customers.

I am doing everything I can to make sure that as few people as possible submit to this egregious violation of their rights. One of the websites that I posted my letter to you on last week has had over 5000 hits since my letter went public. However, I expect that many more people have seen the letter since it was picked up by other high-traffic sites and I have made it available on Scribd. This letter will have already been online by the time you receive it (I waited a few days on the last letter so that you would have a chance to respond first), and I expect it will generate a lot of interest once again.

The tide of public opinion is already starting to turn. US Air can choose to acquire a backbone before it is too late. I expect that the airlines that are the first to protect their customers will be rewarded. Those who show themselves to have no concern for their customers will pay the price.


Kathryn Muratore

Kathryn Muratore [send her mail] is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at American University. She holds a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley. Visit her blog protesting the TSA’s naked scanners.

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