US aviation system is starting to show strains from shutdown

Geraldine Edwards
January 14, 2019

Officials at Miami International Airport said they are prepared to close Terminal G in the afternoons to free up TSA officers to work busier checkpoints. Many are furloughed and many are working without pay.

"Right now, there's approximately some 40 employees that are calling in sick from TSA", meaning that "this terminal doesn't have the manpower to accommodate all the passengers", airport spokesman Jack Varela told Agence France-Presse.

Jeffrey Price, an aviation-security consultant and a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, expects more TSA agents will fail to show up, creating longer lines and creating a potential target for terrorists at airports.

The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers (NACTA) meanwhile slammed the crisis, saying it was making hard conditions even worse for its 20,000 members.

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Chin told The Miami Herald that some passengers have complained about longer waits but there have been no abnormal security delays. That's raising concerns that TSA will see even more employees calling in sick and dropping shifts as they pursue other options for income if the shutdown continues. "Most importantly, security standards remain uncompromised at our nation's airports", Michael Bilello, a TSA spokesman, tweeted on Saturday morning.

The largest federal employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees, is seeking recompense for up to 420,000 essential employees who are working without compensation.

TSA hasn't heard of any other airport planning to shut an entire concourse like the one in Miami, Bilello said.

The stress is already taking a toll at some airports. An official tweeted recently that there is only a 1 percent increase in call outs compared to this time past year.

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In the meantime, federal employees won't be paid until the end of the shutdown.

Although travelers have not yet been impacted by airport screening, it could easily become intractable, according to Christopher Bidwell, a senior vice president at the Airports Council International-North America in Washington, cited by Bloomberg.

Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, which represents 32 unions that cover transportation workers, said he thinks the nation's transportation system is now safe and would not recommend that people avoid flying.

Keys is part of the almost 1,200 TSA workers at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport who are considered essential employees.

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The lawsuit filed by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association union charges that Trump, the Federal Aviation Administration and other USA officials are violating workers' constitutional rights by "depriving them of their hard-earned compensation without the requisite due process".

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