Air travel fears up amid U.S. govt shutdown

12 January, 2019, 04:57 | Author: Brooke Harris
  • ‘It’s Profoundly Unfair’: Boston TSA Officers Set To Miss Paycheck

As "essential" federal employees, TSA agents have been showing up for work without payment for almost a month at one of the lowest paying and most thankless jobs in the airport industry, according to Money.

Miami International Airport is providing the most visible evidence yet that the shutdown is at least making air travel less convenient.

Unions will hold a rally on Thursday on Capitol Hill urging an end to the shutdown. A statement on its website on Wednesday said 1.74 million passengers were screened across the day, and 99.9 percent had to wait 30 minutes or less.

Jeffrey Price, an aviation-security consultant and a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, expects more TSA agents will fail to show up, creating longer lines and creating a potential target for terrorists at airports. But Chin said the airport has been monitoring security checkpoints and they have not seen abnormal delays.

U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, asked the Trump administration how it is ensuring adequate staffing at airports.

At MIA, some passengers have complained about long waits in screening lines. A almost equal number of federal workers are not deemed "essential" and have been placed on temporary leave, and their absence is affecting some functions ranging from FAA inspections of aircraft to CBP interviews with applicants for Global Entry status.

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Bilello said TSA is still hiring officers and working on contingency plans in case the shutdown lasts beyond Friday, when officers would miss their first paycheck since the shutdown began on December 22.

While the percentage of officers calling in sick is up substantially, the overall number of missing screeners remains small and airport operations have had minimal disruptions, according to the agency. "In order to maintain the right level of staffing, it's critical to have a continuous process of recruiting, training and getting new officers to our nation's airports", Bilello said.

The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers (NACTA) meanwhile slammed the crisis, saying it was making hard conditions even worse for its 20,000 members.

If a significant number of controllers missed work, the Federal Aviation Administration could be forced to extend separation requirements, amount of time between takeoffs and landings, which could delay travel. "In fact, plaintiffs' job is so demanding and requires such rare stills that the FAA struggles to maintain a full complement of certified Air Traffic Controllers".

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said controllers often must work overtime and six-day weeks at short-staffed locations.

"We felt we had to make a decision before the weekend", Chin told the Miami Herald.

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