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Shutdown chaos threatens Thanksgiving travel

A shutdown would force tens of thousands of TSA employees and federal air traffic controllers to work without pay until the government reopens just as the holiday travel season ramps up.
That could potentially lead to longer wait times, flight delays and cancellations.
“Previous shutdowns have affected every function of aviation and air travel and have specifically harmed regional airports” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
Moran is the co-chair of Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus and ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation aviation safety subcommittee.
TSA workers are expected to get their next paycheck just as the shutdown begins, which could alleviate some stress over Thanksgiving.
But during the last shutdown — which stretched from Dec. 22, 2018, to Jan. 25, 2019 — more and more TSA employees called in sick as the shutdown dragged on.
During that time, the national rate of airport screener absences more than tripled from 3 percent to 10 percent, according to a September 2023 analysis by Tourism Economics.
That pressure was credited in part with ending that standoff that lasted 35 days, the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
Personnel “will do their best to meet wait time standards of 10 minutes and under for TSA PreCheck lanes and 30 minutes and under for standard screening lanes at security checkpoints,” a TSA spokesperson told The Hill.
“An extended shutdown could mean longer wait times at airports,” the warned.
A shutdown could also exacerbate the shortage of air traffic controllers in the U.S., which the Federal Aviation Adminstration is working to close.
“Even though the FAA would carry out its mission, a government shutdown would set the agency back on critical efforts,” an FAA spokesperson told The Hill. “Even a shutdown for a week would set the agency back a month.”
Air traffic controller shortages mean more flights could get delayed or canceled once they make it through screening.
Flight cancellations ticked up to 2.86 percent in January 2019 from 1.14 percent in December 2018 and 1.07 in the preceding month, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics data.
Then there’s the economic impact: A shutdown could cost the travel industry and broader economy as much as $140 million per day, $36 million of which would hit the air travel industry, according to the Tourism Economics analysis.
Taylor Giorno has more here.

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