America's busiest airport warns of 3-hour waits to clear security, as record government shutdown continues
- Passengers at America's busiest airport have been warned to leave at least three hours to get through security.
- Long waits at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport come as part of the record partial government shutdown.
- TSA agents, who handle security, are not getting paid, and many are not coming to work.
- An airport spokesman confirmed to Business Insider that it is still advising passengers to allow three hours on Tuesday.
- Other airports have warned of long waits and fewer flights if the shutdown continues.
America's busiest airport warned passengers to set aside three hours to clear security, as the government shutdown continues to hamper everyday life in the US.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport tweeted on Monday evening that it was experiencing "longer than usual wait times during peak travel" and advised passengers to "give yourself 3 hours to clear security."
TSA agents aren't being paid during the partial government shutdown, and many are not coming to work.
An airport spokesman confirmed to Business Insider on Tuesday morning that their advice is still to leave three hours.
Earlier Monday CNN reporter Omar Jimenez shared video footage of the security queue earlier on Monday, which he said was the "longest security line I have ever seen."
The sped-up footage shows a long line of passengers snaking through the airport. " One passenger told me he’d been waiting over an hour and still had about 30 minutes to go," Jimenez said.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that the long lines had caused some passengers to miss flights.
As of early Tuesday morning, the wait times were around 15 minutes, which is not unusual. The airport said the three-hour warning stands despite the quiet start.
Passengers have been showing up hours before their flights to ensure they can take off.
The delays come as an increasing number of TSA agents across the country call in sick.
On Tuesday, 7.6% of TSA agents had unscheduled absences, compared to 3.2% on the same day last year, TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said. He said that "security standards remain uncompromised at our nation’s airports."
One federal air traffic controller in Atlanta told The Daily Beast: "Everything is a mess here. No one knows who is open, who is working, or what terminals are functioning."
"It’s a total sh-tshow that won’t be solved until the shutdown is over," they said.
The Atlanta airport spokesperson told Business Insider that passengers should look at the airport's website and app for estimates on security queue times.
The shutdown is now the longest in US history, leaving 800,000 government employees unsure when their next paycheck is coming.
The shutdown started December 22 after Democrats refused President Donald Trump's demand that a spending bill to keep the government open includes billions of dollars in funding for a wall along the southern US border.
Bilello, the TSA spokesman, said that agency directors were meeting with airport authorities and airlines across the US to "ensure resources are optimized, efforts to consolidate operations are actively managed, and that the screening and security of the traveling public are never compromised.
He said that Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as well as George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Washington-Dulles International Airport, are "exercising their contingency plans to uphold aviation security standards."
He also said that TSA would reallocate officers across the country "to meet staffing shortages that cannot be addressed locally."
Related: Furloughed workers protest amid government shutdown:
Some airports have been sharing their short security lines in response. Washington's Dulles airport shared a photo of short lines and said it has "minimal wait times."
But other airports have warned that conditions could worsen if the shutdown continues.
Josh Waggener, president of Denver's National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said on Monday that Denver International Airport could face longer lines and fewer flights, according to the local Reporter Herald.
As well as passengers being affected, a lack of air traffic control staff could also hold up flights.
"We were already at a 30-year low for air traffic controllers before the shutdown," he said.
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