Published: Sat, January 12, 2019
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Air Traffic Controllers Union Becomes Latest Group To Sue Trump Over Shutdown

Air Traffic Controllers Union Becomes Latest Group To Sue Trump Over Shutdown

The partial government shutdown is starting to strain the national aviation system, with unpaid security screeners staying home, air-traffic controllers suing the government and safety inspectors off the job.

Congress adjourned for the weekend Friday afternoon, guaranteeing the government shutdown will continue and become the longest in U.S. history - as air traffic controllers sued the Trump administration over their frozen pay.

Here is a roundup of recent developments in the partial government shutdown's impact on air travel.

That's about three per cent of the roughly 450 flights that depart each day.

The TSA workers who would normally staff Terminal G will be sent to busier checkpoints.

TSA has brought on about 500 new officers since the shutdown with 300 more expected to start later this month.

The agency has very few tools to deal with a severe shortage.

Terminal G is the slowest concourse at the airport, with about 12 planes a day flying out after 1 p.m.

An airport spokesman, Greg Chin told The New York Times that people have called in sick at double the rate. Terminal G's flights will be diverted to other terminals this weekend.

"We felt we had to make a decision before the weekend", Chin told the Miami Herald.

Other airports had similar messages. However, the controller staffing was already at a 30-year low and support workers have been furloughed, putting more pressure on those who remain on the job and threatening to cause flight delays, she said. On Friday, their union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington and asked for an order that its members get paid.

The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers (NACTA) meanwhile slammed the crisis, saying it was making hard conditions even worse for its 20,000 members. There is no indication that is happening yet. That is far less than many other government employees, making them more vulnerable if they don't get paid. They oversee and certify inspections done by employees of airlines and aircraft-repair shops. "They're erring on the side of caution".

The security screeners and controllers are among workers declared essential to security and safety and have been ordered to work without pay.

"There has been no degradation in security effectiveness and average wait times are well within TSA standards", Transportation Security Administration spokesman Michael Bilello said. It's routine for TSA to open and close screening lanes as volume at airports rises and falls. Airports in San Francisco and Kansas City already do that, with approval from the Transportation Department.

Some speaking out are TSA Agents working at Metro Airport where this round table was held.

Much of the media attention has focused on potential snarls at airport checkpoints, but the shutdown's impact on travel could manifest itself in numerous ways.

Bilello said on Twitter that the TSA is working with "stakeholders and industry partners to explore efforts to consolidate officers and operations".

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal workers, filed its own lawsuit January 8.

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