Monday, December 13, 2010

No longer a frequent flyer

Kishin Thadani shares his letter to Continental airlines:

December 11, 2010
RE: Your loyal customer (OnePass member ########) & the T.S.A.
Continental Airlines, Inc.
900 Grand Plaza Drive NHCCR
Houston, TX 77067-4323
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to confide in you about a decision that I have made.  You see, I have decided to stop flying.  My last flight was in August 2010 with Continental Airlines and I do not have any intentions of flying again in the foreseeable future.  In fact, I recently changed my travel plans and I have decided to drive over 1,200 miles to attend my best friend's wedding in Florida rather than to hop on a direct three hour flight.  As I am sure that you are aware, Newark Airport (EWR) is a Continental Airlines hub and you have daily non-stop service to several airports in south Florida.  You may then be curious as to what would compel someone like me to forego the time convenience and cost effectiveness of a Continental Airlines flight and instead make such a person opt for an 18 hour long drive.
Well, allow me to expound on the reasoning behind my decision as well as that of others who share my feelings.
The outstanding reason for my decision can be attributed to the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration, or simply the TSA.  Specifically, it is the TSA's policies, procedures, and practices that are dissuading me from ever wanting to fly again.  Ever since the TSA introduced what they call "Advanced Imaging Technology" x-ray machines (a.k.a. the naked body scanners) in the airports, there has been a rightful outrage over their use and abuse. 
These naked body scanners have been admitted to not only be ineffective against their purported purpose, which is to protect against the threat of underwear bombers, but they are also an egregious violation of the basic dignity and privacy rights of all air travelers, including your customers.  These machines do not simply produce a silhouette of your body which can be examined for metal objects, but rather they produce a very detailed image, covering every inch of your body!  These images are so intimate that news outlets must blur them before they can air them on TV!  Furthermore, the naked body scanners present a health risk to everyone who is exposed to the back scatter or millimeter wave x-ray radiation that they emit and to top it off, they are not even operated by medically trained professionals!  I question as to why the TSA insists on installing the naked body scanners throughout airports in the United States when they already have perfectly viable, minimally intrusive, and previously proven alternatives such as bomb sniffing dogs, "puffer" machines, and explosive residue testing equipment.  In addition to these naked body scanners, I also take issue with the TSA's invasive pat-downs for individuals who opt-out of subjecting themselves to the needless humiliation and health risks associated with the naked body scanners.  I believe that the "enhanced pat-downs" are a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and I am certain that if anybody else was to similarly "pat-down" another person outside of the airport security checkpoint, then that person would be arrested and charged with sexual assault!  The previous levels of security prior to the introduction of the naked body scanners were sufficient in warding off any domestic terror threat as evidenced by the lack of any other domestically initiated terror incident over the course of the past 9 years!  I believe that with the introduction of the naked body scanners, the balance that existed in the scale of compromise between liberty and security has just been grossly shifted and I will go out of my way to avoid suffering indignity and needless health risks by refraining from commercial air travel.
As I made clear, I am among the growing number of air travelers who refuse to fly and I, for one am willing to take concrete and decisive steps to affirm my decision. Needless to say, I did not arrive at this decision lightly and I approach this matter with due gravitas.  I have been a loyal customer of Continental Airlines for the past several years and Continental Airlines is the airline with which I most frequently fly.  In fact, I was awarded Elite Status membership for the years 2007/2008.  I am currently a OnePass member as well as a Chase Continental OnePass Plus (World MasterCard) credit card holder.  Unless I receive an indication that Continental Airlines is willing to advocate on behalf of its customers by taking initiative in the removal of the naked body scanners from the airports and reversion of the enhanced pat-down procedures, then I may have no choice but to renounce my OnePass membership and risk the forfeiture of all the miles I have thus far accumulated.  At the same time, I will discontinue the use of my Chase OnePass Plus credit card and I will cancel it at the expiration of its current year term. 
I earnestly hope that Continental Airlines is willing to take a stand for the sake of its customers and is willing to lend a strong voice in support of the growing opposition against the TSA's ineffective and egregious security policies and procedures that are being foisted upon air travelers.  Until the naked body scanners are removed from the airports and the enhanced pat down procedures are ameliorated by the TSA, I will abstain from flying altogether for both business and personal travel needs.
 Mr. Kishin Thadani
CC: Jeffery Smisek, CEO Continental Airlines, Inc.