TSA 'call outs' could increase if shutdown continues

A Transportation Security Administration worker screens passengers and airport employees at O'Hare International Airport

A Transportation Security Administration worker screens passengers and airport employees at O'Hare International Airport

The increasing number of screeners calling out sick at the Transportation Security Administration is impacting its operations at smaller US airports, but the agency's effectiveness to protect the country's flights has not been diminished, a TSA spokesperson told ABC News.

Employees of the Transportation Security Administration are expected to work without pay during the shutdown because their jobs are considered essential.

Despite increased sick absences, TSA noted that wait times have not significantly increased at the nation's airports.

A fifth of the USA government is on hold including 380,000 non-essential workers sent home while Mr Trump refuses to sign annual funding bills. Negotiations are at an impasse over Trump's demands for US$5.6 billion to fund a wall at the US-Mexico border. TSA agents reportedly have been calling in sick in large numbers during the shutdown in protest of withheld pay. The TSA said the impact has been minimal, but since there's no end in sight to he partial government shutdown, there are concerns passengers could see delays.

Airports are conducting talks with local TSA managers about finding ways to bolster TSA staffing, he said. If TSA agents do call out there will be fewer on duty, thus leading to longer lines at security.

"It's certainly not built into their budgets right now, but if it came down to it they may look to find the resources to support that sort of thing on a voluntary and temporary basis", Bidwell said.

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More than 2 million passengers passed through the airport previous year, according to the City of Palm Springs website.

"Palm Springs airport is a small airport that requires a full team effort", said Jim Gregory, TSA's Deputy Assistant Administrator, in a statement.

January is generally a slower month for air travel, but the agency has warned that wait times could increase. New York's LaGuardia Airport had waits that extended to 52 minutes, but that was because of unexpected traveler volume and management decisions, not because of staff shortages, he said.

"TSA officers, TSA canine handlers and their canines, TSA explosives experts, TSA inspectors-all frontline security personnel-will be working". "Many federal employees live paycheck to paycheck".

They can only be called back to work if there is a "reasonable likelihood" of a life-threatening safety issue. "Now we're talking about a completely different environment". Officers have been paid up until now and are scheduled to receive a check on Friday.

"We are grateful to the more than 51,000 agents across the country who remain focused on the mission and are respectful to the traveling public as they continue the important work necessary to secure the national's transportation systems", said TSA spokesman Michael Bilello.

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