Airports Act As Shutdown Drags On

As the government shutdown drags on, various airports are taking action to ease the way for impacted federal safety and security employees.

Today marks the 21st day of the federal government’s partial shutdown. The vast majority of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel are working without pay, as are air traffic controllers and others involved in the aviation industry.

Those employed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport could see a bit of relief. The Port of Seattle is coordinating a resources fair beginning today at SEA to help employees who are continuing to work without pay during the current federal government partial shutdown. The fair will bring together providers of short term loans, employee assistance programs and others to make it easier for federal employees to learn about the services that are available and quickly get help.

“The federal workers who serve critical functions at the Port—as air traffic controllers, security checkpoint screeners, safety inspectors and other vital roles—deserve to be paid in a timely fashion for the work they do,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Ryan Calkins. “Until our federal government ends this unnecessary and harmful shutdown, we will do everything in our power to help workers in our facilities find the resources they need to pay their bills.”

At Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), there’s a free lunch for those who are working without a paycheck. In an effort called “Operation Thank You,” the Allegheny County Airport Authority is providing free lunches on Fridays to more than 200 federal workers, including TSA agents and air traffic controllers.

PIT is joining with Bruegger’s Bagels to provide bagged lunches that include a sandwich, chips, cookie and drink on all shifts for workers. A table will be set up on the landside ticketing level at 10 a.m. where airport staff will distribute some of the lunches. Lunches will also be delivered to air traffic controllers and other tower workers at AGC.

“We have not seen an impact on operations or lines here in Pittsburgh due to the shutdown. We are so thankful to the federal employees including TSA, FAA, Customs and others for continuing to work without pay at this critical time,” Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said. “I think we all can agree that this is an issue that needs to be fixed quickly.”

Miami International Airport (MIA) took a proactive approach to handling potential shortfalls in the numbers of TSA agents willing to work this weekend. Multiple reports suggest TSA workers have been calling in sick at far higher than usual rates.

Calling it a “precautionary measure due to uncertainties created by the lapse in federal government funding” MIA said it is closing Terminal G at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Flights that were previously scheduled to depart from Concourse G will be relocated either to Concourse F or Concourse H. The airport said passengers should arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight to allow sufficient time for parking, check-in and security screening.

Today marked the first missed paycheck for many federal workers as the government shutdown reached its 21st day. The partial federal government shutdown could reach a cost of more than $100 million daily for the U.S. economy just through the impact on travel, according to a preliminary calculation by the U.S. Travel Association’s economic research department.

This includes a daily cost of nearly $50 million in direct domestic travel spending, plus more than $50 million in indirect and induced travel-related output, caused by suspended national parks visitor services as well as the standstill of travel related to government business. The figure assumes that the shutdown has not affected Customs and Border Protection operations, visa processing or air transportation, the group said.

The U.S. Travel Association was one of 34 associations to jointly send a letter to President Trump and congressional leaders urging an end to the shutdown.

“This partial shutdown has already inflicted real damage to our nation’s aviation system and the impacts will only worsen over time,” the letter says. “We urge you to act quickly to resolve these issues.”