An average of 25 TSA employees call in sick per shift at DFW. That's pretty much what hundreds of TSA agents are saying after they were assigned to work shifts despite not being paid during the partial government shut down. That means TSA officials at airports around the country - cognizant that long security lines frustrate passengers - could have tough decisions to make, including whether to let passengers board flights with less scrutiny.
Following previous shutdowns, government employees both required to stay on the job and those furloughed and ordered to not work have received back pay.
President Trump said Friday that the shutdown might drag on for "months or even years," so kindness might be the most that many of us can do. "They are not coming to work because they don't have the money to get to work". The number of people calling out sick have increased by 200 percent to 300 percent at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. As of Friday, those wait times remain within the agency's standards, TSA said.
With the federal government shutdown nearing its third week, CNN on Friday reported a dramatic increase in the amount of TSA agents - who have been required to continue working without paychecks - calling out sick.
Michael Bilello, the agency's assistant administrator for strategic communications and public affairs, said staffing levels at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport were slightly down.
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'This staffing crisis is negatively affecting the National Airspace System, and the shutdown nearly certainly will make a bad situation worse, ' National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said in a statement.
"While call outs have increased nationwide, right around this time of year, right around Christmas that's not unusual", Bilello said. About 800,000 workers now receive no pay, and roughly 420,000 are required to report for work without pay with the same repercussions for absenteeism as if they were being paid. "Security effectiveness will not be compromised".
In absence of a path forward, the shutdown could become the longest in American history, surpassing the previous record of 21 days in the '90s, under President Bill Clinton and a Republican-led Congress, according to CNN.
So far, no TSA worker has missed a paycheck. The big question is whether the sick-outs will increase as the shutdown continues. Airports struggling to staff checkpoints may also start reducing the number of lanes open to passengers, which will likely mean longer lines and waiting times.
There are no indications that any of these measures have been necessary or implemented.