Airline passengers across the country have been grappling with wait times of "over an hour" to get through security checkpoints, as TSA employees - unpaid due to the partial government shutdown, called in absent at more than twice last year's rate.
The absences - thought to be due to a combination of the shutdown and a snowstorm on the East Coast, have forced airports to close security lanes in Atlanta, Washington and Houston.
Wait times to pass through security were “over an hour” at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International’s main checkpoint for domestic flights, the airport said on its website. Screening times were as much as 45 minutes at the two other domestic-flight checkpoints at the nation’s busiest hub. The airport is adding more “live music at all of our checkpoints to help ease tensions for passengers,” spokeswoman Elise Durham said in an email. -Bloomberg
So I’m at @ATLairport and this may be the longest security line I have ever seen. Even growing up here, and even for a Monday morning. One passenger told me he’d been waiting over an hour and still had about 30 minutes to go. pic.twitter.com/UL7EghujQI— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenezCNN) January 14, 2019
TSA spokesman Michael Bilello tweeted on Monday that the agency's unscheduled absence rate hit 7.6 percent, vs. 3.2 percent last year.
This morning, TSA experienced a national rate of 7.6 percent unscheduled absences compared to a 3.2 percent rate one year ago, Monday, January 15, 2018. Most importantly, security standards remain uncompromised at our nation’s airports.— Michael Bilello (@TSA_Bilello) January 14, 2019
"Washington-Dulles International Airport & Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are exercising contingency plans due to callouts related to a snow event & anticipated high-volume, respectively," Bilello added in a separate tweet.
Today, Washington-Dulles International Airport & Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are exercising contingency plans due to callouts related to a snow event & anticipated high-volume, respectively. Travelers should contact their airline before traveling.— Michael Bilello (@TSA_Bilello) January 14, 2019
Bilello added that "TSA Federal Security Directors, in concert with the airport & servicing airlines will announce when lane closures occur so passengers can plan accordingly."
On Sunday we reported that George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston was forced to shut down Terminal B at 3:30 p.m. for the remainder of the day "due to staffing issues" related to the shutdown, according to its website.
TSA screeners weren't paid on Friday - missing their first paycheck since the government mostly closed over a dozen major departments and agencies on December 22 in a dispute over whether to fund President Trump's long-promised border wall with Mexico.
This group is standing next to the TSA security checkpoint at DIA they are protesting the partial government shutdown. They say "Enough is enough and the government needs to be allowed to open again so people can get paid." #Denver7 pic.twitter.com/xyVYxV4jhY— AlanStedman7 (@AlanStedman7) January 13, 2019
According to TSA Administrator David Pekoske, the agency would pay its employees for work on that first day of the shutdown - adding that they would receive bonuses of $500 each.
"While I realize this is not what you are owed for your hard work during pay period 26 and what you deserve, I hope these actions alleviate some of the financial hardship many of you are facing," Pekoske tweeted.
While I realize this is not what you are owed for your hard work during pay period 26 and what you deserve, I hope these actions alleviate some of the financial hardship many of you are facing.— David P. Pekoske (@TSA_Pekoske) January 12, 2019
Ad Dulles airport in Virginia, located near Washington D.C., the TSA and the airport shuttered two checkpoints - consolidating screening into a third checkpoint, according to Bilello.
According to Bloomberg, the partial shutdown has also kept most Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety inspectors off the job - "prompting many routine actions to come to a halt."
Southwest airlines, meanwhile, says it is now unable to move forward with efforts to win approval for a route to Hawaii.