Some people who traveled over the holiday weekend likely experienced longer wait times at security checkpoints across the country as Transportation Security Administration employees took days off, many citing “financial limitations.” Unscheduled absences from work by airport security officers soared to a record 10 percent on Sunday, the TSA said, noting it was the highest rate since the previous day, when eight percent of employees called out. On the same day last year, the absence rate was a comparably tiny 3.1 percent.
“Yesterday’s complete figures show that TSA experienced a national rate of 10 percent of unscheduled absences compared to a 3.1 percent rate one year ago on the same day, Jan. 20, 2018,” the TSA said in a statement Monday. “Many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations.”
Despite these absences TSA insists that wait times “are within normal TSA times of 30 minutes for standard lanes.” Some airports, however, “experienced longer than usual wait times,” the TSA said in a statement issued Sunday.
More than 50,000 TSA officers are among the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or ordered to work without pay during what is now longest government shutdown on record. If the shutdown doesn’t end soon, it’s likely the airport screeners will miss yet another paycheck. And while the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. isn’t really known as a travel weekend, the travel industry is starting to worry that the shutdown could start affecting sales for Presidents’ Day weekend next month.
Earlier reports that airport screeners were calling out sick in high numbers during the shutdown were met with derision from government officials, including President Donald Trump. “More #FakeNews from @CNN. Security operations at airports have not been impacted by a non-existent sick out,” Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton wrote on Twitter. Trump later praised Houlton for that tweet.
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