Miami airport terminal closing early as screeners call in sick

/ CBS/AP

TSA worried about shutdown "tipping point"

Miami International Airport is closing a terminal this weekend due to the partial government shutdown because security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the airport's normal rate. The current partial government shutdown became tied for the longest shutdown on record as of Friday.

Friday marks the first day screeners will miss a paycheck, and airport spokesman Greg Chin says there's a concern there won't be enough workers to handle all 11 checkpoints during normal hours over the weekend.

Chin says Terminal G will close at 1 p.m. Saturday, reopen for flights Sunday morning and close again at 1 p.m. that day.

The terminal serves United Airlines along with smaller carriers. Its closure means restaurants and shops that depend on departing flights also will close.

Chin told The Miami Herald that some passengers have complained about longer waits but there have been no abnormal security delays.

CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave has reported the shutdown could result in longer waits at airports. Wait times are already up at many airports as some screeners call out sick, rather than work without pay.

At New York's LaGuardia Airport, fliers had to wait in nearly hour-long security lines on Sunday. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) blamed a higher than expected number of travelers coupled with mismanaged resources. But the agency is worried the ongoing shutdown means lines may only get longer.

There has already been a modest increase in TSA officers calling in sick. Agency officials are concerned Friday's payroll deadline — when screeners will miss their first paychecks — could be a "tipping point." Many of the more than 51,000 screeners cannot afford to lose their weekly pay and may not come to work. Security delays could mean missed flights for passengers.

Air traffic controllers are also working without pay, and National Transportation Safety Board investigators aren't able to deploy to accidents, like a deadly small plane crash in Michigan last week.

They can only be called back to work if there is a "reasonable likelihood" of a life-threatening safety issue.

"Each day that we're not on the job, it becomes, the risk factor goes up," said furloughed FAA inspector Troy Tomey.

First published on January 11, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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