Ef­fects of shut­down be­ing felt at air­ports

Miami closed con­course af­ter high num­ber of work­ers called in sick.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FRONT PAGE - By Car­olyn Y. John­son

One ma­jor air­port shut­ters a con­course be­cause of staffing is­sues. Oth­ers are open­ing food pantries to feed TSA work­ers.

Three weeks into the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down, air­ports and their work­ers are be­gin­ning to feel some se­ri­ous pain.

At least one ma­jor air­port tem­po­rar­ily shut­tered a con­course be­cause of staffing is­sues re­lated to the shut­down. Oth­ers are open­ing food pantries to sup­port Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion staffers work­ing with­out pay.

Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port closed one of its con­courses for half the day Satur­day and Sun­day out of con­cerns the air­port wouldn’t have enough em­ploy­ees to op­er­ate all the se­cu­rity check­points. Air­port spokesman Greg Chin said Sun­day that Con­course G will be back in op­er­a­tion to­day and fu­ture ad­just­ments will de­pend on the avail­abil­ity of work­ers.

The de­ci­sion to close the con­course was made af­ter an unusu­ally high num­ber of work­ers called in sick. The num­ber of ill­ness-re­lated ab­sences has dou­bled since the shut­down started, Mi­ami of­fi­cials said. That jump is prob­a­bly re­lated to a na­tional trend of TSA em­ploy­ees call­ing in sick to protest hav­ing to work with­out pay dur­ing the shut­down.

Chin said the de­ci­sion to close parts of the air­port was a “pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure to op­ti­mize staffing” dur­ing peak times when large num­bers of cruise-line pas­sen­gers leave the city. The 10 to 12 af­fected flights were to de­part from other ter­mi­nals.

Air­ports across the coun­try are fac­ing staffing short­ages, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics re­leased by the TSA, but the im­pact of the ab­sences on fliers and air­port se­cu­rity has been de­bated. Af­ter sev­eral news out­lets pub­lished sto­ries fea­tur­ing long lines at air­port se­cu­rity, the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity called the re­port­ing “fake news.” Of­fi­cials say there have been no ma­jor de­lays and no im­pact on na­tional se­cu­rity.

Air­port of­fi­cials, how­ever, warn the sit­u­a­tion could get much worse if the shut­down isn’t re­solved soon. Many say they’re draft­ing con­tin­gency plans to deal with a short­age of TSA work­ers, like shut­ting cer­tain se­cu­rity check­points or sup­ply­ing ex­tra staff tem­po­rar­ily to run bins or per­form other non­se­cu­rity func­tions.

“De­spite the shut­down, TSA se­cu­rity of­fi­cers con­tinue to do a great job of ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently screen­ing pas­sen­gers and bags,” said Christo­pher Bid­well, se­nior vice pres­i­dentof se­cu­rity for Air­ports Coun­cil In­ter­na­tional-North Amer­ica, an as­so­ci­a­tion that rep­re­sents the own­ers and op­er­a­tors of air­ports.

ALYSSA SCHUKAR / THE NEW YORK TIMES

TSA work­ers at sev­eral ma­jor air­ports around the coun­try, work­ing with­out pay since the shut­down be­gan, have been call­ing in sick in height­ened num­bers.

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