January 13, 2019 / 7:15 PM / 4 days ago

Absences among U.S. airport screeners jump as shutdown drags on

Travelers wait in a security line at Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 13, 2019. REUTERS/David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Unscheduled absences among federal airport security screeners jumped on Sunday, forcing a checkpoint and ticket counter to close in Houston, as a partial government shutdown that has frozen pay checks moved into its 23rd day.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the agency responsible for airport security screening, said unscheduled absences among its employees rose to 7.7 percent from 5.6 percent on Saturday. That is more than double the 3.2 percent rate experienced a year ago.

The TSA said in a statement on Sunday that security had not been compromised at U.S. airports.

But screener staffing shortages forced George Bush Intercontinental Airport to shut down a security checkpoint and ticketing counter in Terminal B on Sunday afternoon, the airport said in a statement.

“Passengers are encouraged to arrive early and give themselves extra time to check in for their flights and to clear the security checkpoints,” the airport said.

The ticket counter and security checkpoint were expected to remain closed for the remainder of the day.

Miami International Airport said it planned to reopen Concourse G on Monday. The concourse was closed for part of the weekend because not enough TSA workers were present to staff the security checkpoint.

The screeners are among the lowest-paid federal employees. While they will be paid once the shutdown ends, many say they will struggle to pay bills in the meantime.

Reporting by David Shephardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Grant McCool

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