With the partial government shutdown continuing, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is calling on the Administration and Congress to tap fee revenue to pay Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers and fund security operations.
“ASTA calls on Congress and the Administration to work together to end the government shutdown,” said ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby in a written statement. “While the immediate impact to our industry is limited, the longer the shutdown lasts the greater the chance of negative economic consequences. We’re specifically concerned about issues ranging from airport security staffing to National Park and museum closures to air traffic control functions to passport and trusted traveler program enrollments to the macroeconomic consequences of 800,000 Americans going without a paycheck.”
Kerby also said that Congress and the TSA should halt the diversion of a portion of TSA security fees to the federal government’s general fund, which has been ongoing since 2013.
“Derived from true ‘user fees,’ this revenue should be used to fund the TSA’s security screening operations rather than paying down the federal deficit, and thus limit the impact on the flying public,” Kerby said.
Meanwhile, the shutdown is continuing to impact air travel as federal workers, including TSA screeners and air traffic controllers, are forced to work without pay. According to NBC News, the shutdown could even impact air travel during the Superbowl, which is scheduled for February 3 in Atlanta. Dan McCabe, a representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, told NBC News that the shutdown has forced the organization to halt planning meetings for the game, which will see an anticipated 1,500 additional flights per day into the Atlanta area during Super Bowl week.
The shutdown has also reportedly led to longer lines at airport security checkpoints due to climbing absences by TSA personnel. Passengers at the Atlanta airport on Tuesday reported wait times of up to three and a half hours, while Miami International Airport was forced to close the checkpoint at Concourse G over the weekend due to a lack of personnel. At Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the checkpoint and ticketing lobby at Terminal B is still shut down, according to the latest update from the airport’s official Twitter account.
The security checkpoint and ticketing lobby at Terminal B remain closed. please arrive early to allow time to reroute to Terminals C or E. Updates will be sent as they are received. #fly2houston https://t.co/YtUOVkF08m— Houston Bush Airport (@iah) January 16, 2019
In terms of the broader travel industry, new research by travel marketing firm MMGY Global suggests that the government shutdown is having a "substantial impact" on leisure travel and will likely continue to do so. Sixteen percent of U.S. travelers have already cancelled a vacation due to concerns about the shutdown. Fifty-five percent of respondents to the survey, which polled 400 U.S. travelers from January 10 – 11, said that they will still take a planned vacation during the next six months without hesitation, while 32 percent are planning to move forward but are monitoring the situation. Fourteen percent of respondents are unsure or are considering cancelling their vacation plans due to the shutdown.