COLONIE – Albany International Airport hasn’t been affected so far by unpaid Transportation Security Administration officers not showing up for work during the partial government shutdown, airport officials said Tuesday.
Across the country, several hundred of the 51,739 TSA screening agents have stayed home rather than work during the shutdown, which continued through an 18th day on Tuesday with no breakthroughs in sight.
“There have been no delays,” said airport spokesman Doug Myers. “Should we have any delays we will let the public know, but we don’t anticipate that. These people are very dedicated.”
Agents who screen boarding passengers and their bags have been deemed “essential employees,” meaning they must report to work even though the Department of Homeland Security is among the agencies going without funding. Some screeners have decided not to work, creating delays at some of the nation’s busiest airports, according to CNN.
Bart Johnson, the Albany-based TSA federal security director for the 14 commercial airports in upstate New York, said there have been no problems with the 850 TSA employees who work at airports he oversees. He said lines have moved smoothly despite the high volume of travelers during the Christmas-New Year’s holidays. The shutdown began on Dec. 22.
“We have not experienced any operational difficulties whatsoever. They’re really all in good spirits, they enjoy the challenge of what they do,” said Johnson, who said he has been talking with and encouraging agents while they are on screening duty.
If the political confrontation over border security continues through the end of the week, the TSA employees will miss their first bi-weekly paychecks. The agency has provided them with information on how to deal with financial difficulties, Johnson said. “There’s a degree of uncertainty out there,” he acknowledged.
“We’re hoping for a quick resolution and that they will get paid,” Johnson said, who is also going without pay.
TSA officials in Washington, D.C., acknowledge some issues with staffing nationwide, though they said that 99.8 percent of the 2.2 million people who traveled through airports on Sunday waited less than 30 minutes, and 99.9 percent of just over 2 million waited less than 30 minutes on Monday.
“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 nation’s transportation systems,” the agency said in a Twitter statement.
“To date, ‘call outs’ nationwide are having minimal impact. Jan 7, 2019 ‘call outs’ are 4.6% vs 3.8% on Jan 7, 2018. Security standards will NOT be compromised,” TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said in a separate Twitter post on Tuesday.
According to Myers, the airport will continue to monitor the situation and will let the public know if there are any increased delays, though he said he doesn’t anticipate any.
“It is most disappointing that the shutdown of our government is forcing these valued employees to endure fiscal instability while still serving our country,” Myers said.
The TSA checkpoint at the Albany airport opens at 3:30 a.m. most mornings, and is staffed until between 7:30 and 9 p.m., depending on airline needs, Johnson said. He said some members of the public are thanking TSA agents for continuing to remain on the job despite the shutdown.
About 1.4 million people fly out of Albany every year.
While the agents are not getting paid during the shutdown, they are expected to get paid for working through the shutdown after it ends.
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