Shutdown could mean longer airport wait times as TSA workers call out sick

Shutdown impacts airport wait times

The partial government shutdown is starting to impact travelers. Wait times are up at many airports as some screeners call out sick, rather than work without pay.

At New York's LaGuardia Airport, fliers had to wait in nearly hour-long security lines on Sunday. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) blamed a higher than expected number of travelers coupled with mismanaged resources. But the agency is worried the ongoing shutdown means lines may only get longer.

There has already been a modest increase in TSA officers calling in sick. Agency officials are concerned Friday's payroll deadline — when screeners will miss their first paychecks — could be a "tipping point." Many of the more than 51,000 screeners cannot afford to lose their weekly pay and may not come to work. Security delays could mean missed flights for passengers.

Air traffic controllers are also working without pay, and National Transportation Safety Board investigators aren't able to deploy to accidents, like a deadly small plane crash in Michigan last week.

They can only be called back to work if there is a "reasonable likelihood" of a life-threatening safety issue.

"Each day that we're not on the job, it becomes, the risk factor goes up," said furloughed FAA inspector Troy Tomey.

He can't do his job either.

"When people board aircraft, we don't care who they are. We don't care if they're Democrat, Republicans. We don't care what minority they are, what religion they go to. We're there to ensure that aircraft is as safe as possible for them," Tomey said.

TSA's leadership spent Monday huddled in meetings working on contingency plans for later this week and hunting for funds to try to pay these workers.

  • Kris Van Cleave

    Kris Van Cleave was appointed CBS News Transportation Correspondent in September 2015 and is based in Washington, D.C.