We knew that the government shutdown would be an issue, but when passengers can get a gun past TSA with ease, then the problem is bigger than we thought.
A passenger boarding a Delta Airlines plane at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was able to get a firearm past security without incident on January 3. The passenger then successfully flew all the way to Japan, landing at Tokyo Narita International Airport. Even though it seems as if the passenger may have been testing TSA’s ability to catch him, the passenger insists that it was simply an oversight.
Before the start of the shutdown, TSA had some difficulty with keeping eyes on weapons coming through airports. Now with agents forced to work without pay, it’s even harder. TSA insists the shutdown had no contribution to this security lapse. The normal amount of staffers reported to work that day. “The perception that this might have occurred as a result of the partial government shutdown would be false,” TSA said. “The national unscheduled absence rate of TSA staff on Thursday, January 3, 2019, was 4.8% compared to 6.3% last year, Thursday, January 4, 2018. So in fact, the national call-out rate was higher a year ago than this year on that date.”
TSA agents and other federal workers are among the 800,000 government employees out of work thanks to the shutdown. Reports of air safety concern have risen, but the Air Traffic Controllers and Aviation Safety Inspectors Union are trying to guarantee the safety of passengers. “Security standards will NOT and have NOT been compromised,” TSA assistant administrator for public affairs Michael Bilello tweeted.
To assist some of the workers suffering from financial grief, TSA announced that they would give a day’s pay for people on duty the day after the lapse in funding. Graciously, they will also grant a $500 bonus for work during the holiday travel season.