The effects of the government shutdown can be felt from the ground to the sky at U.S. airports. The latest concerns have some passengers concerned about whether or not to fly until the shutdown ends.
New numbers out Tuesday from the Transportation Security Administration show nearly 7.5 percent of TSA officers missed work again on Monday, more than double the same weekday in 2018. Those numbers follow a weekend where nearly that number nearly tripled from a year ago, from three percent on Jan. 20, 2018 to eight percent on Jan. 19, 2019, according to the TSA. Agents didn’t show up to work citing “financial limitations” from the government shutdown, TSA added.
The shutdown is now putting non-government workers like Rocky Twyman in a tough situation of their own.
“I have a dear friend who died in California, Los Angeles, and I am petrified of flying so I had to tell them I won’t be able to speak at the funeral,” Twyman said.
In the control tower, long days and working without pay are hurting morale as well, according to Anthony Schifano, president of the Charlotte, N.C. chapter of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
“What’s going to happen long-term?” Schifano said members are asking. “Am I going to pay my mortgage? Am I going to be able to pay my loan? I have child care issues.”
The approximately 51,000 TSA officers are considered “essential” and are therefore working without pay during the shutdown, which is now in its 32ndday. But thousands of other employees are considered “non-essential” by the federal government, which is causing a ripple effect, according to Schifano.
“I need the non-essential individuals who do air space and procedures, who do quality control,” he said. “All of those things that those people do who are on furlough, they assist us and our ability to do our job and do it effectively.”
At Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport, the wait time over the weekend was 16 minutes, about half of TSA’s 30-minute national average.
But for Twyman, founder of the Maryland-based Pray at the Pump Movement, the fear is still at the forefront. He’s pushing Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment to prevent future shutdowns and stop all of this from happening again and has started an online petition to advance his cause.
“The human efforts are failing,” he said, “and we need a higher effort at this point.”