Atlanta airport: More than 1 hour of waiting at checkpoints
A Transportation Security Administration employee checks an air traveler's identification at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Jeff Martin, The Associated Press
Published Monday, January 14, 2019 9:54AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 14, 2019 12:12PM EST
ATLANTA -- It was taking more than an hour for passengers to get through domestic checkpoints at the world's busiest airport in Atlanta on Monday, the first business day after security screeners missed paychecks for the first time due to partial government shutdown.
No-shows among screeners across the nation soared Sunday and again Monday, when the Transportation Security Administration reported a national absence rate of 7.6 per cent, compared with 3.2 per cent on the comparable Monday a year ago.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport reported the long lines on its website Monday morning, showing the long waits at all three checkpoints in the domestic terminal.
TSA is working with the Atlanta airport and airlines "to maximize all available operational resources at the airport," TSA spokesman Jim Gregory said.
The agency is working with airports and airlines nationwide to consolidate operations and get the most out of resources, Gregory added. He declined to provide absentee figures for Atlanta or other airports, saying that would compromise security by exposing possible vulnerabilities.
"Screeners will not do anything to compromise or change their security procedures," he said.
Atlanta's wait times stretched well beyond what the TSA says most passengers have endured since the shutdown began.
TSA said that it screened 1.97 million people on Sunday and that 99.1 per cent waited less than 30 minutes, and 93.1 per cent less than 15 minutes. Precheck lines for people who pay a fee for expedited screening averaged less than five minutes, TSA said.
Airports are making changes to deal with the shortage of screeners.
Miami International Airport closed one of its concourses for part of Saturday and Sunday, shifting about a dozen afternoon and evening flights each day to other concourses so that TSA workers could adequately staff the other checkpoints. Airport spokesman Greg Chin said TSA was staffing the Concourse G checkpoint on Monday, but airport officials were monitoring the situation and would make more adjustments if necessary.
Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport closed one terminal Sunday afternoon and it remained shuttered Monday morning, according to an airport spokesman.
The terminal handles United Express flights, which were being moved to other terminals. A spokesman for United Airlines said flights were not affected.
In Atlanta, Monday's long wait times come with less than three weeks remaining before the city hosts one of the world's biggest sporting events. Super Bowl 53 on Feb. 3 is expected to bring hordes of travellers to Atlanta for the game and days of concerts and related events.
A statement from TSA attributed the long waits in Atlanta to "anticipated high volume."
Officials at the Atlanta airport did not immediately respond to requests for comment.