TSA Workers Are Quitting Over The Shutdown — Here’s What That Means If You Plan To Fly
Airport security is on the line as the partial government shutdown drags on. As The Daily Beast reports, some TSA workers have quit during the shutdown because they're being forced to work without pay. If you're planning to fly while the government remains closed, you could experience longer lines or other adverse affects.
The clearest way the worker shortage could affect you is by increasing wait times at the airport. Some particularly long lines were reported at airports this weekend, though The Daily Beast reports that many of the issues were resolved by Monday. Michael Bilello, TSA's Assistant Administrator for Strategic Communications, noted that 99.9 percent of passengers who were screened across the country on Tuesday experienced a wait time of less than half an hour.
You may not experience longer wait times at all, but it may be best to arrive extra early, just in case. Make sure you at least follow TSA guidelines: Per TIME, that means showing up two hours before your flight if you're flying domestically, and three hours beforehand if you're leaving the country.
There's some disagreement on whether or not passengers' safety is in jeopardy due to staffing shortages. For its part, TSA insists there's no increased security risk; in a Friday statement, the agency declared that "security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change" during the shutdown. And indeed, no major security incidents relating to a lack of staffing have been publicized since the shutdown began.
But the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) — the union that represents TSA — insists that passengers' safety could be endangered. Hydrick Thomas, head of the AFGE's TSA Council, told The Daily Beast that continuing to lose airport workers could "create a massive security risk."
"We don't have enough trainees in the pipeline or the ability to process new hires," Thomas told the outlet. "Our [... Transportation Security Officers] already do an amazing job without the proper staffing levels, but if this keeps up there are problems that will arise." Bustle has reached out to Thomas for additional comment, as well as the director of communications at the AFGE National Office.
The Airports Council International-North America also warned of safety risks in a letter to President Donald Trump and Congress this week. President and CEO Kevin M. Burke wrote that there is a "security vulnerability associated with large groups of passengers waiting in public areas at TSA passenger screening checkpoints."
Burke also noted that many Federal Aviation Administration employees are not working during the shutdown, which means they're unable "to develop and approve enhanced flight procedures, install and maintain navigational aids and air traffic control support systems, coordinate the review of applications for new or expanded airport facilities, or hire and train new air traffic controllers." An airline pilot union has cautioned that there may be fewer safety inspections during the shutdown because of the FAA worker shortage.
All in all, there doesn't seem to be an urgent reason to worry about your safety if you're about to get on an airplane. Officials more seem to be cautioning that security risks could arise if the shutdown continues to drag on (as Trump has threatened it could, for "months or even years"). For now, just make sure you get to the airport with plenty of time to spare.