As we head into Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, airports across the country are bracing for millions of travellers all while dealing with a reduced staff due to the partial government shutdown -- which has now reached a record 28 days.
This week, more than 6 percent of TSA workers called in sick -- dubbed the "blue flu" in reference to their uniforms -- now that 380,000 federal employees are on furlough and nearly 420,000 are going to work without being paid after being deemed essential. TSA workers are some of the lowest paid federal workers and many live paycheck to paycheck -- forcing them to call in sick and make money some other way to cover things like childcare and mortgages.
To deal with the incredibly long holiday weekend lines, TSA has urged everyone to download the MyTSA app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. MyTSA lets you know what's happening at your local airport before a flight, covering everything from security line wait times to weather updates.
Wait times for security have skyrocketed in the last two weeks as more and more TSA workers call in sick and force airports to consolidate manpower -- leading to fewer terminals and even fewer air traffic controllers. The MyTSA app gives you an estimate on how much time you should leave before your flight.
"The MyTSA app provides airline passengers with 24/7 access to the most frequently requested airport security information on any mobile device. Save time and money with our helpful tips for preparing for security, including a searchable database of items that can and can't go in checked or carry-on bags," the TSA said.
This morning, the TSA released a statement saying, "yesterday's complete figures show that TSA experienced a national rate of 6.4 percent of unscheduled absences compared to a 3.8 percent rate one year ago on the same day, Jan. 17, 2018; many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations."
MyTSA uses information from the TSA as well as crowdsourced reports from travellers to let you know what your airport looks like.
The country's biggest airports appear to be hurting the most, with Hartsfield-Jason Atlanta International Airport, Miami International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York all suffering from ballooning wait times and lines snaking through the airport to the front doors.
"The Transportation Security Administration expects a high volume of travelers this weekend, today being the busiest day with over 2 million passengers being screened at security checkpoints nationwide," the TSA wrote this morning. "TSA estimates that between today, Jan. 18 and Monday, Jan. 21, over 8 million passengers will be screened, which is an increase of 10.8 percent from the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend in 2018."
In an interview with Yahoo Finance, a TSA spokesperson said about 6,270 people called in sick or missed work between Monday and Wednesday, and they expected the number to rise as more TSA workers are strained financially.
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