Effects of shutdown being felt at airports
Miami closed concourse after high number of workers called in sick.
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.
TSA workers at several major airports around the country, working without pay since the shutdown began, have been calling in sick in heightened numbers.