No pay for TSA agents could slow down airport security lines
Transportation Security Administration agents are among the 420,000 federal workers across the country who are expected to work without pay.
Travelers could experience longer than usual lines at airports because as of Friday, around 51,000 agents won't get a paycheck.
People who fly out of Chattanooga's Airport know getting through security is typically a breeze. However, with no end in sight in the partial government shutdown, travelers like Dianne Thomas wonder if security could get worse.
"We were concerned, so we actually left 30 minutes earlier than we planned to leave because we weren't sure what effect it would have here at the airport," Thomas said.
On average, TSA employees make between $25,518 to $38,277 a year and many live paycheck to paycheck.
Friday marks the first time agents won't receive pay since the shutdown began 21 days ago.
TSA's union said some airports are dealing with what's being called the "blue flu" as some screening officers call-in sick, concerned they won't get paid.
Channel 3 was there as the first flight took off at CHA on Friday. There were no visible protests from employees, and passengers said there was no impact on wait times.
TSA issued this statement to NBC News:
"Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change. Wait times may be affected depending on the number of call-outs."
We reached out to the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport. They declined to comment when asked about the government shutdown and their TSA agents.
Passengers flying said government employees should not be pawns.
"It shouldn't have to happen. There are other ways that our representatives should have to deal with this instead of putting peoples paychecks at risk," Thomas said.
However, it's a reality for thousands. The questions many TSA officers are asking now is will they soon need food stamps or have to look for another job.
"If you don't have a check to pay your bills what are you going to do? You will look for something outside of what you're doing now," Rudy Garcia, TSA Union President, said.
Thomas is worried about lines at major airports on the return flight if the shutdown continues.
"Hopefully, this all will resolve and come to an end very soon, very soon," she said.
Federal officials are assuring airport directors there are mobile teams in place if they need more TSA workers.
Regarding air traffic controllers who are also expected to work without pay, their next paycheck is due on the 15th. The FAA said so far, no widespread reports of controllers calling in sick.