Air Traffic Controllers Sue Trump Over Shutdown

Employees with the Transportation Security Administration walk through Reagan National Airport in Washington. Reuters

Employees with the Transportation Security Administration walk through Reagan National Airport in Washington. Reuters

Air traffic controllers, pilots and other key cogs of the nation's aviation sector on Thursday demanded an end to the partial government shutdown, rallying outside the Capitol to highlight what they say is a growing danger from not reaching a resolution.

Lauri says she has a little money saved up, but worries about many of her coworkers who were living paycheck to paycheck before the shutdown.

President of the T.S.A. Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, Hydrick Thomas, said that "extreme financial hardship" has caused workers to resign.

The AFGE Local 554 held a rally in front of the Domestic North Terminal of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Thursday afternoon.

"There has been no degradation in security effectiveness and average wait times are well within TSA standards", he said.

"Yesterday, Jan 9, 2019, TSA experienced a rate of 5 per cent compared to a 3.6 per cent unscheduled absence rate one year ago on Jan 9, 2018", it said, lauding "the more than 51,000 officers across the country (who) remain focused on the mission".

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But US Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, questioned how long adequate staffing at airports could continue.

TSA's union says they have workers already resigning over the shut down, as airports nationwide say they're anxious about baggage screening absences if the shutdown continues. A statement on its website on Wednesday said 1.74 million passengers were screened across the day, and 99.9 percent had to wait 30 minutes or less.

TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said the organisation was hiring officers and working on contingency plans in case the shutdown lasted beyond today, when officers would miss their first pay cheques since the shutdown began on Dec 22.

TSA has brought on about 500 new officers since the shutdown with 300 more expected to start later this month.

"Airlines can not receive delivery of aircraft causing route cancellations, attrition of air traffic controllers reduces flow of aircraft in the air, and as transportation security officers reduce in numbers we will experience long, slowed security lines".

If a significant number of controllers missed work, the Federal Aviation Administration could be forced to extend the amount of time between takeoffs and landings, which could delay travel, it said. "In fact, plaintiffs' job is so demanding and requires such rare stills that the FAA struggles to maintain a full complement of certified Air Traffic Controllers". The FAA suspended training and limited safety efforts to "urgent continued operational activity to protect life and property". "If the staffing shortage gets worse, we will see reduced capacity in the national airspace system, meaning more flight delays", he said.

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