In midst of shutdown, TSA staffing at MSP Airport dwindles

January 22, 2019 07:18 PM

Officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS there are ongoing conversations over how to handle staffing levels at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints.

Growing numbers of TSA officers are refusing to work without pay during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.


Nationwide, about 10 percent of TSA officers are not showing up to work.

"There's no concerted effort on the part of our folks not to be at work," said Minnesota's Federal Security Director Cliff Van Leuven. "They've been showing up to work and we are tremendously proud of that." 

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TSA says the national average waiting time in airport checkpoint lines is within the normal limit of 30 minutes, but there are longer lines at some airports.
The TSA says the maxium wait time at MSP International Airport was 46 minutes, the highest in the nation. 

MSP International Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan says the high wait time isn't because TSA workers calling in sick, but rather staff shortage of TSA workers. Hogan says travelers should expect longer wait times with or with a government shutdown.

"It's getting to that busier time of year when people here in Minnesota want to go to sunny places," Hogan said. " So we're going to see longer lines I think for the next couple of months then we have in the past, even in the best case scenario with all the TSA screeners working." 

Van Leuven said TSA at MSP was already short-staffed before the shutdown and winter weekends tend to be busier than normal as people travel to warmer destinations.

The average wait time at MSP on Tuesday was about 15 minutes.

Officials acknowledge the airport's 650 TSA officers are frustrated to be working without pay, with no end in sight.

"I worry that we're in a position now with officers who are trying their best to juggle between their personal lives and their TSA lives, that I don't know how long this can go on," Van Leuven said.

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Even if staffing levels are lower than normal, he said safety will stay the same.

"We are not going to compromise security. Our officers will not compromise security and if that means the public may wait a little longer during these peak periods than that's the harsh reality of where we are right now in the midst of this shutdown," Van Leuven said.

Airport officials told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS there is a contingency plan if TSA staffing levels get too low. It would include diverting other workers to security checkpoints to help with the general workflow by moving bins, giving instructions to travelers and staffing exits.

Those workers would not be allowed to do security screenings because, by law, only TSA officers can screen passengers.

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Alex Jokich

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