Airlines Forced to Consolidate Resources As TSA Officers Call Out Sick Amid Shutdown

Photo Credit: David J Phillip/AP/Shutterstock
January 15, 2019
Updated 1mo ago

By Brian Henry

Airline passengers are facing long security lines as unpaid TSA officers have begun calling in sick due to the government shutdown. Staffing shortages led to the closure of an entire terminal at Houston's George Bush International Airport. Local Houston TSA President, Freddie Cuellar, says closing the terminal is the best way to utilize the staff who are able to come to work.

"They're actually consolidating resources. That means closing down Terminal B," he said. "Those 23 people [who would have worked there] actually went to other checkpoints so they run effectively."

Cuellar acknowledges that the officers calling out sick aren't actually ill.

"Nobody's sick here. Let's make that point clear. Nobody's sick. They're just going through a financial hardship and they're having to make hard decisions."

Cuellar says officials at the George Bush International Airport are working to accommodate furloughed employees.

"The federal security directors and the other directors are willing to work with their employees individually through their hardships. So, let's say for instance they want to shorten their schedules or they want to adjust their schedules to make it to work, they're actually willing to work with them to make that happen."

While employees will receive back pay when the government reopens, Cuellar cautions that no one should think of the time off as a paid vacation.

"They're having to make hard decisions. Either stay home for childcare, because everybody knows that childcare is pretty expensive, or come in to work. These are the hard choices our employees and our federal workers are having to make right now."

He put the choice in stark terms, saying officers are being forced to decide whether to "feed their families or put gas in their tanks."

While experts and pundits doubt President Trump and Democrats will soon reach a deal, Cuellar is hoping they resolve the issue quickly by passing a bipartisan bill that allows the government to re-open.

"That's the best outcome for everybody right now. Because lot of these people are coming to their ends and they're having to make hard choices."

For full interview click here.