Concerns over government shutdown's effect on TSA workers

It was taking more than an hour for passengers to get through domestic checkpoints at the world's busiest airport in Atlanta on Monday, the first business day after security screeners missed paychecks for the first time due to partial government shutdown.

No-shows among screeners across the nation soared Monday morning, with a national rate of 7.6 unscheduled absences Monday morning, a Transportation Security Administration spokesman said. That compares to 3.2 percent for this time one year ago, TSA spokesman Thomas Kelly said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport reported the lengthy wait times on its website Monday morning, showing the long waits at all three checkpoints in the domestic terminal.

Callers to the Transportation Security Administration's media relations line Monday heard a recorded message saying employees were unable to answer phone calls due to a lapse in federal funding.

Atlanta's wait times stretched well beyond what the TSA says most passengers have endured since the shutdown began. The recorded message said that 99.9 percent of passengers nationally waited less than 30 minutes to get through security on Friday, and 95 percent waited less than 15 minutes.

The message adds that security standards "remain uncompromised" at the nation's airports.

Still, airports are having to make adjustments. Miami International Airport closed one of its terminals for part of Saturday and Sunday because many TSA workers as usual were calling in sick.

In Atlanta, Monday's long wait times come with less than three weeks remaining before the city hosts one of the world's biggest sporting events. Super Bowl 53 on Feb. 3 is expected to bring hordes of travelers to Atlanta for the game and days of concerts and related events.

The statement from TSA Monday attributed the long waits in Atlanta to "anticipated high volume."

"TSA, airport authorities and airlines will continue to work closely to ensure resources are optimized, efforts to consolidate operations are actively managed, and screening and security are never compromised," Kelly, the TSA spokesman, said via email.

Airport officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.