ShareThis Page
World

Will the government shutdown affect your next flight?

| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, 4:00 p.m.
New York New Jersey Port Authority Police officers stand watch at Newark Liberty International Airport, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Newark, N.J. Transportation Security Administration agents among other airport employees have been working without pay during the partial government shutdown.
New York New Jersey Port Authority Police officers stand watch at Newark Liberty International Airport, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Newark, N.J. Transportation Security Administration agents among other airport employees have been working without pay during the partial government shutdown.
TSA agents work at a checkpoint inside O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker.
Daniel Acker
TSA agents work at a checkpoint inside O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker.

The nation’s airports continue to operate, even as parts of the government remain shut down: air traffic control workers and airport security officers remain on the job. But as the shutdown moves into its third week, some fear it’s only a matter of time before the nation’s air traffic system begins to feel the impact.

Officials at the Transportation Security Administration acknowledge that growing numbers of security screeners are not showing up for work, but say the call-outs aren’t significant enough to have an impact on airport operations.

According to TSA officials, roughly 51,000 employees are involved in the airport screening process. The TSA is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which is the largest federal agency affected by the partial shutdown.

TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said Tuesday that “call outs” were slightly higher at 4.6 percent versus 3.8 percent at this time last year, but that the number was not large enough to have a significant impact on operations.

TSA officials have declined to detail the total number of screeners who aren’t showing up for work, saying that personnel who would provide those answers have been furloughed.

There have been scattered complaints about long lines, but for the most part, travelers say they aren’t seeing an impact. Many report security lines are moving and that at many airports the checkpoints appear to be fully staffed.

But that could change after Friday, when most TSA employees are scheduled to be paid. No deal to end the shutdown means no paycheck.

For concerned travelers, the advice remains the same: Airlines and airport officials advise passengers to allow plenty of time to get through security.

And, if you have questions, the agency’s @askTSA Twitter handle is staffed and responding to questions, including whether screeners who are on the job even despite not being paid can accept tips. (No, they cannot.)

Note that those who apply for the Global Entry program may face delays since many appointments have been canceled due to the shutdown. However, TSA’s Pre-check program is continuing to accept applications. Pre-check is funded by user fees so it is not affected by the shutdown.

Still, the uncertainty of what might happen should more TSA screeners call-out is drawing attention from Capitol Hill.

In a follow-up to a letter sent Tuesday, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, blasted DHS for failing to be ” … forthcoming about the security implications of President’s shutdown on DHS” and continued to press for answers on whether TSA is able to carry out security functions, particularly at foreign airports.

On Monday, Thompson sent a letter seeking answers from TSA Administrator David Pekoske about how many officers had failed to show up for work and whether TSA has a contingency plan in place to ensure the nation’s airports are secure. However, TSA officials said they could not provide written answers due to the shutdown.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me