TSA acknowledges increase in agents calling out sick amid partial government shutdown

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The TSA has acknowledged an increase in agent call-outs, as the partial government shutdown has reached day 15.

However, they say the effect has had minimal impact, and has not affected their performance standards.

In a statement provided to ABC11, TSA spokesperson James Gregory wrote in part:

We are acknowledging that some call outs began over the holiday period and have increased, but are causing minimal impact given there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process. Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change. Wait times may be affected depending on the number of call outs, however to date, screening wait times remain well within TSA standards. Thursday, for example, TSA screened more than 2.2 million passengers. Overall, 99.8 percent waited less than 30 minutes. We are grateful to the agents who show up to work, 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 provided DFW Airport, one of the nation's busiest, as an example, noting on Friday that 5.5 percent of the TSA workforce called out, an increase from a 3.5 percent average.

"It's about the same as the past few months, actually the past couple years. Might even be slightly improved a little bit in areas, but it's about the same," said Thongchai Khidathong, a traveler who returned to Raleigh following an international trip.

"Well, considering it's Miami, it's always a hassle there but since I don't travel that much maybe I saw it as a longer experience," added traveler Veronia Rodriguez.

Rodriguez explained she had discussed the effect of the partial government shutdown on the TSA with her family prior to taking off.

"I was actually talking about this with my uncle yesterday, about how TSA agents weren't showing up to work or calling out sick. But honestly, I didn't really pay attention to that when I went to the airport. But yeah, it's pretty interesting and pretty sad that we're going in this direction with the government," Rodriguez said.

On Friday, CNN reported the call-outs were occurring at various airports across the country. Mac Johnson, a local union president representing TSA agents, told CNN that the call-out rate at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Charlotte/Douglas International Airport was up 10 percent, and warned it could get worse as the shutdown continues.

ABC11 reached out to the AFGE, the union representing TSA agents, for an interview. They have not responded to our request as of Saturday evening. According to its website, AFGE is "the largest federal employee union representing 700,000 federal and D.C. government workers nationwide and overseas."

Wait times at RDU for travelers Saturday afternoon and evening were brief, with short lines quickly moving through Terminal 2.

Tyler Houlton, the Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary, responded to the CNN article on Twitter, writing in part, "Security operations at airports have not been impacted by a non-existent sick out."

President Trump also responded to the report on Twitter, commending the agency, where he wrote in part, "TSA is doing a great job!".



January, specifically outside the first week, is typically a slower travel season following the holiday rush in late November and December.
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