The nation’s airport security force continues struggling to find enough workers, creating longer-than-normal wait times at some of the busiest U.S. airports over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
The Transportation Security Administration screened 2.18 million people Monday, the close of the three-day holiday weekend, and four airports had wait times that exceeded 30 minutes, according to the agency. Airports including Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota; Newark, New Jersey; Seattle and Baltimore have had repeated issues during the weekend.
On Monday, 7.5 percent of TSA screeners failed to show up for work, the agency said in a release. That figure was down from Sunday’s 10 percent absentee rate, but remains well above norms and has been increasing on average.
The partial shutdown that began Dec. 22 has forced TSA’s security-critical employees to continue working without pay. The agency gave employees a $500 bonus and found reserves to pay them for the first day of the shutdown, but Friday will mark the second time employees have missed a paycheck and also is close to the first of the month when people often must make rent or mortgage payments.
“Many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations,” the agency said in its release.
In addition to airport screening glitches, the shutdown has also hurt airlines because almost all Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors were off the job until last week. Southwest Airlines Co., for example, has had to postpone its new flights to Hawaii because FAA inspectors haven’t been able to sign off on the long-distance operations over water.
“That was all scheduled for this month and, unfortunately, we’re at a standstill because of the government shutdown,” Southwest Chairman Gary Kelly said in a weekend statement to employees recorded Monday.
More than a dozen major agencies and departments have mostly been shuttered in a political dispute over President Donald Trump’s demands to build a wall on the Mexican border.
–With assistance from Mary Schlangenstein.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.