shutdowns, winter weather, and air travel

There I am minding my own business in the PreCheck line at JFK Terminal 4 on Christmas night when I'm randomly pulled for secondary screening. 
"Over there," a TSA agent said with a shrug. "Someone will come to pat you down." But the first someone is a female agent. We stare at each other from opposite sides of the full-body scanner. 
"I'm okay if you're okay," I say gamely. 
"Nope," comes the instant reply. "I'm already not getting paid for working tonight ..." 
          Copyright (c) 2019 JoeSentMe.com Reprinted with permission ... subscribe here 

The anecdote above was told by Joe Brancatelli, my favorite travel journalist, and it introduces the worries I have about my next trip. By the way, I've subscribed to Joe's weekly column for years and find it a good read and chock full of essential information. I quote this story as it introduces, quite nicely, my concerns about my flight next Wednesday to CDG.  Other than packing and other fun stuff, of course.

(1) Standing in line... The US government is partially shut down, as everyone knows, and the shutdown is affecting air travel. Big time.

TSA security screening. While we complain about the lines — having to take off our shoes, remove liquids, and deal with other inconveniences — security screenings are an essential service provided by the federal government. TSA employees are required to work during the shutdown, but they're not getting their paychecks (due today). Screeners have been calling in sick, and I can't blame them, but the result is long[er] lines at security.

Air Traffic control — absolutely essential for air travel to happen safely — is a highly skilled but stressful job. Air traffic controllers manage everything from takeoffs to inflight routings, approaches to landings. Rigorous training is required for this job, and without this service provided by experienced federal employees behind the scenes, the world economy would crash. ATC employees are dealing with the same stresses as the TSA screeners — working without being paid.

(2) Winter weather... As if that weren't enough, winter weather happens, even at SFO. Though San Francisco doesn't get cold or snowy, it does get winter storms. When visibility is impaired, the airport is forced to close down one of the two landing runways. This can delay arrivals by an hour or even more... and a delayed arrival translates into an equally delayed departure. This means hours waiting at the airport and arriving at my destination hours late.

(3) Immigration and customs... Immigration control agents are often the first persons to welcome us back home again, but sick-outs mean fewer agents, longer lines, and wasted time for thousands of travelers. Would you rather be standing in queue at the airport? or home again with your family?

So here's my word of appreciation for federal employees and the job they do ... and my word of annoyance (keeping politics out of it) at legislative leaders who won't bring funding bills to the floor for a vote. Let's get essential services funded.

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

No comments: