32 days into the government shutdown, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) made an unusual request to its workers in order to keep airports across the country running during the crisis. According to an email received by a TSA executive and obtained by CNN, the TSA has asked 250 employees across the nation to leave their home airports and travel to other airports that are having a particularly rough time maintaining staff numbers. So if you're wondering whether your flight will be affected by the government shutdown, the answer is that it's increasingly likely.
Per CNN, this is the second request for TSA backup that's been sent during the shutdown, because of how many workers aren't able to show up. What's more, according to The Hill, the amount of unscheduled absences for TSA workers rose to 10 percent on Sunday, largely due to financial circumstances; CNN adds that another 7.5 percent of TSA employees were unable to work on Monday.
Although there have been a few select instances in which the government shutdown has impacted commercial flights, there have not yet been widespread delays or cancellations. However, Vox notes that if air traffic controllers (also federal employees) start calling in sick, too, then that could be a major problem and likely limit the amount of flights that enter or leave any given airport.
To CNN, TSA spokesman Jim Gregory said, "We are working every day to ensure our checkpoints are fully covered nationwide and always are welcoming new volunteers. Our workforce is incredibly mission-focused, and we have had hundreds answer the call."
Gregory further confirmed that security checkpoints and lanes could begin to close if the need for staffers wasn't met, though he maintained that the agency was doing everything in its power to ensure that won't happen. He said, "In coordination with the airlines and airport authorities, our federal security directors will implement contingency plans as necessary, which could mean lane closures. We have seen very few lane closures across the nation so far."
If you have other concerns about your upcoming trip, like whether you can get your passport renewed, you shouldn't worry. The U.S. Passport Agency has remained open throughout the shutdown, as have all foreign embassies and consulates located in the United States, per Travel Document Systems.
If you recently applied to the Global Entry program, then you might experience a longer delay than usual, according to The Washington Post. This is because many appointments have been canceled amid the shutdown, the publication reports. But if you're concerned about your TSA PreCheck application, you're in luck: this program isn't affected by the shutdown because it's fueled by user fees, per The Washington Post.
If you do end up at the airport in the coming days and feel seriously frustrated by an unusually long security line, then it might be worth keeping in mind why many TSA employees are calling in sick to work right now. Per CNN, a statement by the TSA revealed the majority of employees calling in sick are doing it due to "financial limitations."
One TSA screener said to Fox 12 News, "I don't think I could go much longer than a few months before I start looking for something else. The bills still got to be paid. [It's] Kind of disappointing when you show up every day and you hope to get an honest paycheck for honest work."