MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - A long weekend for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday has a heavier-than-normal volume of travelers hitting airport across the U.S., and it’s all happening amid a federal government shutdown. Transportation Security Administration says Friday, Jan. 18 is the busiest travel day of the MLK weekend day with more than two million passengers being screened at security checkpoints nationwide.
TSA estimates that between Friday and Monday, more than eight million passengers will be screened, which is an increase of 10.8 percent from the MLK weekend in 2018.
WAIT TIMES LONGER AT MSP
TSA screened 2.14 million passengers on Thursday, Jan. 17. Of those passengers, 99.7 percent waited less than 30 minutes and 94.2 percent waited less than 15 minutes. In TSA PreCheck lanes, passengers waited less than five minutes on average. Minneapolis, Seattle and Atlanta had the longest wait times on Thursday.
In Minneapolis, general security lines had a maximum average wait time of 36 minutes and five minutes for PreCheck. Atlanta had a general wait time of 47 minutes and 20 minutes for PreCheck. Seattle had a general wait time of 31 minutes and PreCheck wait time of 14 minutes.
TSA AT MSP: ‘I'm serving my country'
Many Transportation Security Administration agents continue to work without pay during the shutdown. On Thursday, Jan. 17, TSA experienced a national rate of 6.4 percent of unscheduled absences compared to a 3.8 percent rate one year ago on the same day. Many agents are reporting they are not able to work due to financial limitations.
“Our employees are showing up for work,” said Cliff Van Leuven, the TSA federal security director for Minnesota. “If you see any lines like on Saturday morning, it’s going to be busy because people are heading south—that’s not because officers are calling in sick—they’re coming into work.”
Among them, is Salat Tuke, who has been a TSA agent for a year.
“I’m serving my country, so I’m proud every time I’m showing up here, even though I’m not getting paid—I’m doing the right thing,” said Tuke.
TSA JOB FAIR AT MSP
The government shutdown is putting additional stresses on the TSA staff at MSP, who are already down about 40 positions. That's why there will be a fast track job fair this weekend to hire and train folks as soon as possible.
“Obviously the shutdown is not optimal,” said Van Leuven. “None of us are getting paid right now, but we are trying to build the workforce population up for what’s going to be a very busy spring break again and then we have the Final Four here in April. Then, there’s a very brief hiatus before it’s summer.”
Anyone can show up between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday at the TSA administrative offices in Bloomington. It's a way for people to meet with someone face-to-face rather than apply online.