No-Show TSA Agents Increase, Screening Checkpoints Closed
As the government shutdown inches into its fourth week, more TSA agents than ever are calling in sick to work with no sign of a future paycheck.
- By Sydny Shepard
- Jan 16, 2019
Travelers are seeing longer lines, closed screening checkpoints and fewer TSA agents at airports around the country as the government shutdown drags into its fourth week with no end in sight.
The Transportation Security Administration reported a national absence rate of 7.6 percent on Monday, compared to 3.2 percent on the same day last year. Monday marked the first business day after screeners did not receive a paycheck for the first time since the shutdown began, making it harder for agents to make it to work as some cannot afford the transit fees, childcare and other fees associated with screening hours.
A security checkpoint inside the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston was closed on Sunday evening due to "staffing issues associated with the partial shutdown of the federal government." The airport said the TSA security checkpoint and ticketing counter inside Terminal B were closed, but that flights would continue to operate as normal. Passengers were fed through security checkpoints in different terminals. The change will be in effect through Wednesday.
Other airports made similar moves over the weekend, including Miami International Airport, which closed one of its concourses because of an "increased number of TSA screenings not reporting to work."
A Miami airport spokesman said TSA workers were calling in sick at double the normal rate, leaving managers uncertain of whether they would have enough workers to operate all checkpoints throughout normal hours.
At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, where a gun was allowed through security and on-board a plane to Japan, some passengers waited more than an hour to get through security. The airport reported long lines on its website Monday morning, showing the hour-plus waits for all three checkpoints in the domestic terminal.
In a tweet from TSA's Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, Michael Bilello said that nationwide, TSA screened 1.89 million passengers on Monday and overall, 99.1 percent of passengers waited less than 30 minutes to be screened.
Close to 51,000 TSA agents are working without pay or on furlough. On Friday, TSA Administrator David Pekoske announced all TSA employees who worked December 22, the last day in that pay period, would receive pay for the day by Tuesday. Officers who worked during the holiday travel season will also see $500 in bonuses.