US gov shutdown - flights unaffected, for now

Due to the ongoing partial US Federal Government shutdown, media reports indicated that passengers in the States were experiencing longer wait times at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checks.

Spokeperson for SAA, Tlali Tlali, told Travel & Meetings Buyer that at present SAA’s operations in America were unaffected. British Airways also confirmed that the airline’s operations to the States were as normal.

The cause of the delay was the reported higher numbers of TSA employees, who continue to work without pay during the shutdown, calling in sick.

While the TSA website has not been updated since December 21 as a result, assistant administrator for Public Affairs at the TSA, Michael Bilello, has been active on Twitter, trying to clarify the situation. “We understand that the current lapse in funding may be causing added stress for our workforce and want to continue to express that we are grateful to the more than 51 000 officers across the country who remain focused on the mission. #NotOnOurWatch” he tweeted yesterday.

On January 6 he tweeted: “Nationwide, TSA screened approx 2 million passengers yesterday/Saturday. 99.9% of passengers waited less than 30 minutes, and TSA Pre✓® passengers on average waited less than five minutes…”


And he later added: “To put that into perspective, on January 7, 2019 TSA had an unscheduled absence rate of 4.6% compared with a 3.8% unscheduled absence rate on January 7, 2018.”


Bilello then ran through a list of airlines detailing the maximum waiting times for screening passengers and TSA pre-approved passengers. At JFK, for example, he said the maximum waiting time was 19 minutes, and only four minutes for pre-approved passengers. The airport’s website at the time of publication showed the longest security wait time as Terminal 5 at 26 minutes, with the TSA pre-approved line at 10 minutes.  

 The times at Atlanta Airport were given as 22 minutes and 10 minutes respectively. While at Washington Dulles Airport, to which SAA has recently increased its frequencies, maximum wait times were 10 minutes, with TSA pre-approved passengers at eight minutes. 

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