Airports seeing rise in security screeners calling off work during shutdown

Passengers wait at a TSA airport security checkpoint

The partial government shutdown is causing new concerns for air travel.

DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton characterized CNN's report as "fake news".

"TSA is doing a great job!" he added.

But on Friday, Houlton attacked CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins for reporting on the sickout.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport typically has only 25 to 30 TSA employees call out sick each day; now, those call-outs are up 200 to 300 percent, a local TSA official told CNN.

US Transportation Security Administration employees are calling in sick in protest over being forced to work without pay during the government shutdown that shows no signs of ending after 14 days.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of NY said the president told them Friday he's prepared for the shutdown to last months or years.

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As Slate reports, more than 150 TSA employees called out sick on Friday at Kennedy International Airport in NY, while Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport saw the number of TSA officers who called out sick skyrocket by 200 to 300 percent.

Additionally, TSA reported that so far screening wait times continue to be "well within" their standards.

However, a spokesperson for the TSA told Fortune that while the number of employees calling in sick increased over the holiday period, it resulted in minimal impact for screening, and "security effectiveness will not be compromised".

TSA agents are among some 800,000 government employees who have been furloughed or required to work without pay. The spokesperson said 99.8% of 2.2 million passengers screened on January 3 waited less than 30 minutes. The official said some union members can not pay for child care, while others are taking temporary jobs to earn the cash needed to pay bills.

'This staffing crisis is negatively affecting the National Airspace System, and the shutdown nearly certainly will make a bad situation worse, ' National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said in a statement. Negotiations are at an impasse over Trump's demands for $5.6 billion to fund a wall at the U.S. -Mexico border. That means TSA officials at airports around the country - cognizant that long security lines frustrate passengers - could have tough decisions to make, including whether to let passengers board flights with less scrutiny.

The number of traveling passengers has grown by about 4% each of the last few years, Pekoske said in September.

The big question is whether the sick-outs will increase as the shutdown continues.

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