Miami airport to close terminal early as TSA screener absences rise
By David Shepardson
(Reuters) - Miami International Airport will close an airport terminal early over the next few days, officials said on Friday, with more unpaid security officers absent from work as the partial government shutdown has dragged on.
The airport said that on Saturday, Sunday and Monday it will end flights at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) from Concourse G and relocate them to either to Concourse F or Concourse H. Miami is the 14th busiest U.S. airport, handling 20 million passengers annually.
The Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) 51,000 officers will miss a paycheck on Friday as the shutdown hits its 21st day. The screeners are among the lowest-paid federal employees. While they will be paid once the shutdown ends, many say they will struggle to pay bills in the meantime.
Airport spokesman Greg Chin told the Miami Herald that TSA screeners are calling in sick at twice the normal rate for Miami and managers were not confident they would have enough workers to operate all 11 checkpoints during normal hours.
"We felt we had to make a decision before the weekend,” Chin told the newspaper. “They’re erring on the side of caution.”
TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said that "in an effort to optimize resources without degrading screening and security effectiveness, where it is feasible, TSA is working with key stakeholders and industry partners to explore efforts to consolidate officers and operations."
Bilello said at Miami Airport on Thursday passengers "waited a maximum of 23 minutes yesterday" to clear security. He added that TSA will not compromise security standards if TSA staffing levels fall.
Chin told the newspaper G is the slowest terminal at Miami Airport and 12 planes typically fly out of G after 1 p.m.
A TSA spokesman said the terminal closing early will not affect flights. United Airlines and some smaller international airlines use Concourse G.
United said in a statement it did not expect operations to be affected "as we have arranged to fully utilize alternate gates for flights originally scheduled out of Terminal G."
TSA said on Friday it had an unscheduled absence rate of 5.1 percent Thursday compared to a 3.3 percent rate a year ago.
Nationwide, TSA screened 1.96 million passengers Thursday and 99.9 percent of passengers waited less than 30 min, the agency added.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)
More Top Stories
U.S. home sales tumbled to their lowest level in three years in December and house price increases slowed sharply, suggesting a further loss of momentum …read more
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn moved a step closer to paving the way for another referendum on European Union membership by trying to …read more
Winter winds and ice sheets will bring extreme cold and ice-slick roads to the Midwestern and Eastern United States on Monday.read more
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday let President Donald Trump enforce his policy barring certain transgender people from joining or staying in the military as …read more
Covington Catholic High School, the Kentucky school at the center of a national controversy over a viral video of an encounter between some of its …read more
Senator Rand Paul and Representative Thomas Massie, both from Kentucky, expressed support for the Covington Catholic High School students who were attacked by the media …read more