As it girds for a busy holiday weekend for travel, the nation’s airport security screening system continues to struggle with high absenteeism as a result of officers having to work without pay during the partial government shutdown.
On Thursday, 6.4 percent of U.S. airport security officers were off the job, almost twice the 3.8 percent on the same day a year earlier, the Transportation Security Administration said in a release. The agency said it anticipates clearing more than 8 million people in the four days of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, an increase of nearly 11 percent over last year.
“Airports may exercise contingency plans due to call-outs and traveler volume in order to maintain effective security standards,” the agency said. “Travelers should seek current airline and airport information and should allow enough time to get through the airport and board their flight.”
Thursday’s absentee rate was slightly higher than the level recorded on Tuesday and Wednesday, but below the spike over the weekend after the more than 51,000 TSA screeners missed their first paycheck on Jan. 11.
While 99.7 percent of travelers waited less than 30 minutes in screening lines, three airports recorded maximum waits exceeding that time on Thursday. In Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, passengers waited as long as 47 minutes, the TSA said.
The TSA has been forced to consolidate screening lanes at some airports as a result of the higher levels of employees not reporting to work. The agency said many people have reported they cannot afford to work as a result of not being paid.
Earlier: Unpaid TSA Screeners Citing Financial Hardship for Missing Work
The partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22 has halted funding for more than a dozen major departments and agencies. It is a result of a political fight over whether to fund a wall on the border with Mexico.