Passengers dealing with long lines at Hartsfield-Jackson's TSA checkpoints
ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Passengers trying to get through domestic checkpoints at Atlanta's Hartfield-Jackson International Airport were facing long waits and long lines on Monday, the first business day after security screeners missed paychecks for the first time due to a partial government shutdown.
No-shows among screeners across the nation soared Sunday and again Monday, when the Transportation Security Administration reported a national absence rate of 7.6 percent, compared with 3.2 percent on the comparable Monday a year ago.
Hartsfield-Jackson, the busiest airport in the world, reported the long lines on its website Monday morning, showing the long waits at all three checkpoints in the domestic terminal.
Officials are now telling passengers to make sure to arrive at the airport three full hours before a flight to get to through the security screening.
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Around noon, FOX 5's Morse Diggs was at the airport. Double lines were everywhere, circling around the escalators in the main area of the airport.
Passengers told Diggs that the only thing they could do was grin and bear it and have patience.
"We have to appreciate that they're here," one passenger said. "It's absolutely gonna take us long and we have to be patient, I guess. Because why would you work without pay?"
TSA is working with the Atlanta airport and airlines "to maximize all available operational resources at the airport," TSA spokesman Jim Gregory said.
The agency is working with airports and airlines nationwide to consolidate operations and get the most out of resources, Gregory added. He declined to provide absentee figures for Atlanta or other airports, saying that would compromise security by exposing possible vulnerabilities.
"Screeners will not do anything to compromise or change their security procedures," he said.
Atlanta's wait times stretched well beyond what the TSA says most passengers have endured since the shutdown began.
TSA said that it screened 1.97 million people on Sunday and that 99.1 percent waited less than 30 minutes, and 93.1 percent less than 15 minutes. Precheck lines for people who pay a fee for expedited screening averaged less than five minutes, TSA said.
In Atlanta, Monday's long wait times come with less than three weeks remaining before the city hosts one of the world's biggest sporting events. Super Bowl 53 on Feb. 3 is expected to bring hordes of travelers to Atlanta for the game and days of concerts and related events.
A statement from TSA attributed the long waits in Atlanta to "anticipated high volume."
Atlanta was not alone in the lengthy lines. At Washington, D.C.'s Dulles airport, FOX 5 DC reported checkpoints were consolidated due to lower staffing numbers.
A TSA security checkpoint at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport had to be closed Sunday because of a similar situation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.