Air travel may be less safe during the government shutdown, federal inspectors warn
Hundreds of Transportation Security Administration agents are calling out from work at Dallas-Fort Worth and other airports after working without pay because of the partial government shutdown.
According to CNN, calls out from work at DFW Airport have increased by 200 to 300 percent. Typically, 25 to 30 TSA employees call to be off work on an average shift.
“This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect,” Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN.
Michael Bilello, TSA assistant administrator of public affairs, said the TSA is closely monitoring the situation.
Bilello told the Star-Telegram call outs began over the holiday period and have increased but are causing “minimal impact.”
“Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change,” he said via text message. “TSA is grateful to the agents who show up to work, remain focused on the mission and respectful to the traveling public as they continue the important work necessary to secure the nation’s transportation systems.”
He added wait times may be affected depending on the number of people who call out, but so far, wait times have remained within TSA standards.
Wait times at Dallas-Fort Worth airport have been in line with what the airport has seen in past holiday seasons, said Cynthia Vega, media relations manager at DFW airport.
“TSA staff have gone above and beyond to take care of our customers during the recent peak holiday travel period,” said Kelsey Rae Young, business communications specialist at DFW airport.
Calls to be out are increasing as TSA employees continue to work without pay under the government shutdown. TSA employees are required to work without paychecks during the shutdown.
“This problem of call outs is really going to explode over the next week or two when employees miss their first paycheck,” a union official at DFW Airport told CNN. “TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs.”
On Thursday, President Trump said addressed the fact that thousands of federal employees are on furlough during the partial government shutdown, POLITICO reported.
“This really does have a higher purpose than next week’s pay,” Trump said during a news conference.
Democrats proposed a bill that would reopen the quarter of government that is shuttered and continue negotiations over the border wall which Trump wants included in any agreement. Trump and the Senate GOP rejected the proposal, insisting on investments in a border barrier, CNBC reported.
Trump also raised the prospect of a shutdown that could last for months or even years, The New York Times reported.