LIHUE — Tim Sakahara, spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, said HDOT has not experienced significant impacts to travelers as a result of the federal government shutdown as essential safety personnel have continued to report for work.
“As always, we encourage travelers to give themselves plenty of time to pass through the security checkpoints and arrive at their assigned gate,” he wrote in an email Monday.
On average more than 100,000 people fly in and out of Hawaii’s airports every day, of which more than half utilize the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and more than 9,000 utilize Lihue Airport.
“During the shutdown the essential federal employees are working to keep the traveling public safe, but do not know when their next paycheck will arrive, so it is especially important to pack extra patience and show them aloha,” Sakahara wrote.
Nationwide, it’s a different story.
The number of airport security screeners failing to show up for work around the country is soaring as the partial government shutdown goes into its fourth week.
No-shows among screeners jumped Sunday and again Monday, when the Transportation Security Administration reported a national absence rate of 7.6 percent compared with 3.2 percent on a comparable day a year ago. Monday marked the first business day after screeners did not receive a paycheck for the first time since the shutdown began.
At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest, some passengers waited more than an hour to get through checkpoints. The airport reported the long lines on its website Monday morning, showing the hour-plus waits at all three checkpoints in the domestic terminal.
“It’s chaos out here,” passenger Vincent Smith said as he stood in a line that snaked through the Atlanta airport’s atrium and baggage claim areas. “This line, I’ve been here about 15 minutes and it has moved 2 feet.”
TSA is working with the Atlanta airport and airlines “to maximize all available operational resources at the airport,” TSA spokesman Jim Gregory said.
Atlanta’s wait times stretched well beyond what the TSA says most passengers have encountered since the shutdown began.
Delta Air Lines, the dominant carrier in Atlanta, and other airlines said they were advising passengers to get to the airport at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international trips. A Delta spokeswoman said airline employees were pitching in by helping manage TSA lines.
TSA said that it screened 1.97 million people on Sunday and that 99.1 percent waited less than 30 minutes, and 93.1 percent less than 15 minutes. Precheck lines for people who pay a fee for expedited screening averaged less than five minutes, TSA said.
A combination of a busy Monday travel day combined with some security lines being closed led to the long lines, airport spokesman Andrew Gobeil said. He said he didn’t know how many security lines were down.
A statement from TSA attributed the long waits in Atlanta to “anticipated high volume.”