U.S. Airport Wait Times Stabilize Even as Houston Shuts Lanes

(Bloomberg) -- Wait times at airport security lanes across the country appeared to stabilize Tuesday in spite of high absenteeism by security officers left unpaid during the partial government shutdown and the continued closure of a checkpoint at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental.

None of the nation’s busiest airports reported prolonged wait times above 25 minutes on Tuesday, in contrast to Monday when six airports exceeded those delays, according to the Transportation Security Administration’s most recent data.

The absentee rate also fell slightly. TSA officers were absent at a rate of 6.1 percent on Tuesday, almost twice as high as the rate on the same day a year ago, the agency said in a statement. On Monday, the rate was 6.8 percent.

The security checkpoint and public areas where passengers get boarding passes in Houston’s Terminal B were shut Wednesday for the fourth day in a row, the airport said on its Twitter feed. The airport urged passengers to arrive early, but no flights were affected because passengers could access Terminal B gates through other airport entrances.

U.S. Airport Wait Times Stabilize Even as Houston Shuts Lanes

The TSA’s struggles during the partial shutdown -- which has blocked funding for more than a dozen U.S. departments and agencies -- have been among the most high profile. In recent days, the TSA was forced to close screening lanes at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson and Virginia’s Washington Dulles airports. Neither airport reported disruptions on their websites or Twitter feeds Wednesday.

The government has been partially shut since Dec. 22 in a dispute over whether to fund a wall on the Mexico border.

In spite of TSA absenteeism, airline fliers have mostly been spared long waits at U.S. airports, according to the agency’s data.

U.S. Airport Wait Times Stabilize Even as Houston Shuts Lanes

TSA screened 1.6 million travelers Tuesday and only 2.7 percent waited longer than 15 minutes in security lines, the agency said. While national wait times are within the normal range, a handful of airports have experienced longer times, the agency said. The release didn’t describe the cause of the delays at individual airports.

On Monday, Atlanta passengers waited 88 minutes to pass through screening as the airport was forced to close lanes due to a lack of TSA officers. The maximum wait at Atlanta fell to 23 minutes on Tuesday, the TSA said.

Six airports reported wait times of 25 minutes or higher on Monday.

An earlier TSA release Wednesday that identified five airports with security wait times of 25 minutes or higher on Tuesday was corrected.

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