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Terminal at Houston airport closed amid government shutdown

The closure was attributed to 'staffing issues,' and it wasn't immediately clear when the terminal would reopen.
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A terminal at Houston's George Bush International Airport remained closed Monday for a second day amid a shortage of security workers who have gone unpaid during the partial government shutdown, officials said.

The airport tweeted that the closing of Terminal B's security checkpoint and ticketing counter is attributed to “staffing issues” related to the shutdown, which entered its 24th day on Monday. Flights were still operating out of Terminal B, but passengers were directed to checkpoints and ticketing counters in other terminals.

“Advice to always get to @iah 2 hours before your flight is especially important today,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted Sunday. “Shortage of TSA workers, unpaid during the US gov’t shutdown, is causing this change.”

It wasn’t immediately clear when the terminal would reopen at Houston's airport, which is ranked among the top 20 in the world for its number of take-offs and landings, according to a 2018 report by the Airports Council International, a trade group.

Image: Current US government shutdown becomes the longest in US history
Miami International Airport temporarily closed Terminal G because TSA workers called in sick during the ongoing partial government shutdown, which entered its 22nd day on Sunday.CRISTOBAL HERRERA / EPA

A TSA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An automated email reply referenced a “lapse in federal funding” and said messages would only be returned “after appropriations are enacted.”

Passengers were affected Monday at another major airport, Washington Dulles International, where a checkpoint was closed and screening operations were consolidated after TSA officials said there was a significant number of workers who called out. But officials said it was due to the nearly foot of snow that had already fallen in the D.C. area.

As of Sunday morning, a note posted on the agency’s website said TSA experienced a national rate of 7.7 percent unscheduled absences, compared with 3.2 percent one year earlier.

Despite those shortages, a department spokesman tweeted Sunday that “security standards remain uncompromised at our nation’s airports.”

Similar closings and so-called “sick outs” have struck other airports around the United States. Dallas/Fort Worth experienced a 2 percent jump in no-shows earlier this month, while Miami International Airport closed one of its concourses on Friday after workers called in sick at twice the normal rate, according to Reuters.

Airport spokesman Greg Chin told The Associated Press that the terminal was scheduled to reopen Monday.

TSA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, employs 51,000 officers across the country, many of whom earn about $30,000 a year.

Rudy Garcia, president of the union for Dallas TSA employees, said last week that employees who aren’t getting paid for their work would likely try to make money elsewhere.

“If you don't have a check to pay your bills, what are you going to do?" he said. "You will look for something outside of what you're doing now."