Airport security lines may be a little slower if the DHS funding bill doesn't pass, but travelers shouldn't expect major, noticeable differences at airports.
Travelers shouldn’t panic about airport security getting chaotic if a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill isn’t approved by later this month.
The prospect of the DHS furloughing 30,000, or 15%, of its employees looms, as Congress has until February 27 to extend more funding for the department which oversees agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Only “non-essential” personnel such as office staff would be furloughed, meaning TSA agents will still report to their posts.
Marsha Catron, a spokesperson for the DHS, said key management and administrative activities would cease such as “much of the homeland security infrastructure that was built following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to improve command, control, and coordination of frontline activities,” and that TSA agents wouldn’t receive their twice-monthly paychecks.
Business travel groups, though, are already sounding the alarm.
“When the DHS goes unfunded, in the case of TSA when it comes to business travelers, it means longer lines, disruption, and a risk of business travelers canceling trips,” said Mike McCormick, executive director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). “These cancelled trips don’t come back like cancelled vacations do and they’re lost revenue and productivity.”
“Ultimately to business travelers, time is money and they don’t want to be subjected to those bumps and they’ll find other ways to accomplish their business without traveling.”
The association points to evidence from a study done during the government shutdown in 2013 that included the DHS which found business traveler sentiment declined towards air travel during a DHS funding lapse. The top three ways business traveler respondents said the shutdown impacted them were cancelled meeting or business opportunities in the U.S. (57%), increased uncertainty about the economy (57%) and cancelled bookings (50%).
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) estimates business travelers will spend $310.2 billion this year and for every one percent decrease in business travel spending the U.S. economy loses an additional 71,000 jobs, nearly $5 billion in gross domestic product (GDP), $3 billion in wages and $1.2 billion in tax collections.
Photo credit: Transportation Security Administration agent Kevin Effan, left, allows a screened passenger to board his American Airlines flight via the new TSA PreCheck lane at Concourse C security checkpoint at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on its first day of operation. Christian Gooden / Associated Press