It's no secret that the ongoing partial government shutdown has been impacting those who work within or adjacent to the air travel industry. The impact of the shutdown reached a new height on Sunday, when TSA employees called out of work in shocking numbers, according to a statement released by the agency.
"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 weekday, Sunday Jan. 21, 2018," the TSA said in a press release on Monday. "Many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations."
Although the TSA's statement did not mention the government shutdown, it's been widely reported that TSA agents — as well as air traffic controllers and other federal employees who work at airports — have been going without pay as the government's doors remain closed. But while Sunday's callout numbers were significant, they are not the first time that TSA work attendance has been an issue since the government shutdown began.
"TSA officers are resilient during this time, yet there is a rise in callouts from officers who say they are not able to report to work due to financial reasons," TAS administrator David Pekoske said in a tweet on Thursday, Jan. 17. "I understand this & where necessary, we will exercise contingency plans using the resources & staff available."
In Monday's statement, the TSA maintained that wait times had remained manageable and that "national average wait times are within normal TSA times of 30 minutes for standard lanes." However, the agency noted, some airports did experience "longer than usual wait times."
The maximum wait times recorder for the day, among the major 42 U.S. airports, were 45 minutes at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, and 35 minutes at Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport, according to the press release.
On Saturday night, the TSA announced that it was closing a checkpoint at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, pointing to a significant number of callouts. "@TSA in collaboration with airport authorities & servicing airlines will be exercising a contingency plan at @BWI_Airport due to excessive callouts," the agency tweeted, noting that one checkpoint would close shortly after 5:30 p.m. that evening.
The current government shutdown is now the longest-running shutdown in U.S. history, according to multiple reports. As of Monday, there was no indication of when its doors might reopen. All public attempts at negotiating a deal that would end the shutdown have reportedly failed.
At the heart of the conflict is President Donald Trump's demand that Congress approve more than $5 billion to fund a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. However, House Democrats — who hold the majority — have repeatedly and consistently refused any bill that would provide such money for that cause.
The shutdown has continued as both sides remain stalwart in their demands. However, the shutdown is not without its tangible effects, and as federally-backed programs run out of funding, it's unclear what the long-term impact of the government's closure will be.