The TSA currently employs around 47,000 people, according to Forbes, which means hundreds are skipping out on work as the government shutdown drags into its third week. It’s gotten so bad that senior TSA officials have reportedly dubbed the mass call outs the “blue flu,” a nod to the color of TSA uniforms. Their absence has led to longer lines at airports, like New York’s LaGuardia, Seattle Tacoma, and others across the United States.
A TSA union official told CNN some employees found that coming into work simply didn’t make sense financially. Factoring in costs of commuting and, in some cases, child care, it cost more for them to show up than eat up their sick time. The financial strain forced some to use their time off to take temporary jobs just to make ends meet, which is devastating to say the least.
Despite fewer Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) coming into work each day, the TSA maintains that it’s committed to upholding security standards. Bilello said on Twitter that “99.9 percent of passengers waited less than 30 minutes,” and “92.9 percent of passengers less than 15 minutes” at all US airports on Monday.
LaGuardia, he said, averaged just 17 minutes to get through security on Monday. Other busy airports, like Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare, boasted similar figures at 20 minutes and 11 minutes respectively to complete security checks.
While it’s clear the organization is operating efficiently even while short-staffed, the frustration among TSA agents who are showing up to work is evident. One Twitter user recounted an encounter with a TSO, who joked with the airline passenger about her lack of income during the shutdown.