It’s unclear when the security checkpoint at Terminal B will open again, and Houston isn’t the only major city experiencing shutdown related woes. Washington Dulles International was forced to close a terminal and consolidate security screening efforts due to a lack of TSA employees as well. Officials told an NBC News affiliate station, however, that the lack of employees was due to a major snowfall in the area, rather than the shutdown.
The TSA has seen a nearly 21% increase in agents calling in sick since the shutdown began, according to the organizations Assistant Administrator of Public Affairs. Michael Bilello said the number of year-over-year “call outs” increased from 3.8% to 4.6% during the shutdown. A note posted to the agency’s website on Sunday suggested that figure may now be closer to 7.7%, however. Senior officials have dubbed the mass unscheduled absences the “blue flu.”
A TSA union official previously told CNN, some employees felt coming into work without pay didn’t make sense financially. Instead, they were opting to eat up their sick time to cut commuting and child care costs. Others were forced to use the time to take temporary gigs to make ends meet.
The record number of TSA agent call outs has some air travelers concerned about safety standards during the partial government shutdown, which has shown no signs of nearing its end. Bilello tweeted on Sunday that “security standards remain uncompromised at our nation’s airports,” even with a lack of officers at checkpoints.