TSA Screener Sick-Outs Hit 10 Percent Over Holiday Weekend

January 22, 2019 Updated: January 22, 2019

The percentage of TSA airport screeners missing work has hit 10 percent as the partial government shutdown stretches into its fifth week.

The Transportation Security Administration said Jan. 21 that the absence rate for Jan. 20 compared to 3.1 percent on the comparable Sunday a year ago.

The workers who screen passengers and their bags face missing another paycheck if the shutdown doesn’t end early this week. According to TSA, many of them say the financial hardship is preventing them from reporting to work.

TSA says the national average waiting time in airport checkpoint lines is within the normal limit of 30 minutes, but there are longer lines at some airports.

The agency has dispatched extra screeners to airports in Atlanta, LaGuardia Airport in New York, and Newark Liberty in New Jersey. A TSA spokesman said other airports might also be getting additional help.

The 10 percent absence rate on Jan. 20 indicates that more than 3,000 airport screeners missed work. TSA has 51,000 screeners, and a spokesman said that about 33,000 work on any given day. That topped the previous high of 8 percent on Jan. 19.

With fewer screeners, TSA closed one of its security checkpoints at Baltimore/Washington airport over the weekend, reopened it, but closed it again on the afternoon of Jan. 21, according to an airport spokeswoman.

A checkpoint at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport remained closed. An airport spokesman said lines were relatively short at six other checkpoints.

TSA appeared to be managing the high sick-out rate as well as could be expected. The agency said that on Jan. 20, it screened 1.78 million passengers, and only 6.9 percent — roughly 120,000 people — had to wait 15 minutes or longer to get through security.

No figures were yet available for Jan. 21, but websites or spokespeople for several major airports, including Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago’s O’Hare, reported normal security lines and few problems.

TSA got a break from bad weather: Storms in the Midwest and Northeast led airlines to cancel more than 4,400 flights over the three-day weekend, which reduced the number of passengers to screen.

By David Koenig. From The Associated Press.

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