TSA Could Face Major Staffing Issues Just In Time For Thanksgiving Travel Crush

As the November 22 deadline for all federal employees to be vaccinated quickly approaches, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may have trouble keeping up with the influx of holiday travelers due to low worker vaccination rates. 

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for travel in the United States and is just 3 days after the federal deadline for vaccinations. According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management says that employees who do not get the vaccine can face disciplinary action, including termination. With only about 60 percent of TSA employees partially vaccinated, this means that airport security — which already faces a great deal of stress during busy seasons — could slow down considerably. 

In an interview with CNN, TSA Administrator David Pekoske mentioned that he is “very hopeful” that employee vaccination rates will increase before November 22 so the organization can avoid possible staffing issues as people travel to be near friends and family for Thanksgiving.

Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for the TSA, commented that the organization expects many workers to get the vaccine in time for the deadline and that the TSA hopes rates will increase before the holiday. She provided more information on steps that the TSA is taking to make the process easier for employees: “At TSA, we are hosting employee town halls, sending broadcast emails, and posting details on the requirement in break rooms on how and where to upload documents for proof of vaccination status.”

According to Pekoske, the TSA is working on contingency plans in case the numbers do not increase. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer helped encourage these plans, pushing for the use of bomb-sniffing dogs to streamline security checkpoint efficiency. “Late last week, the TSA hinted at a potential real travel mess as Thanksgiving approaches,” Schumer stated at a news conference over the weekend. “And that’s because they reported that 40 percent of their workforce remain unvaccinated from COVID-19.”

The trade association that represents many airlines based out of the U.S., Airlines 4 America (A4A), declined to comment on specific predictions for the outcome of the holiday travel season, but did provide the following statement: “We remain in routine communication with our federal partners to prioritize a safe, seamless travel experience.”

Time will tell how smoothly the holiday travel season will go, but fliers will certainly want to make their plans carefully.

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