The government shutdown turned TSA lines in a New York airport into a 'mad house'

TSA Photo

Joe Raedle/Getty

Some people are blaming the government shutdown for long waits at TSA checkpoints.

Travelers experiencing hours-long security lines at LaGuardia Airport in New York over the weekend are blaming short-staffing and the government shutdown for their long waits.

On Sunday, TSA lines at the New York airport turned into a "mad house," according to passengers on Twitter, who said that the queue almost stretched out the door.Advertisement

A spokesperson for the agency said it screened 2.22 million passengers on Sunday, calling it "a historically busy day due to holiday travel."

"TSA at LGA has the staff it needs to screen passengers to date, but wait times were affected," the spokesperson said. Standard screening wait had a maximum of 52 minutes, he continued, but photos posted by passengers appeared to show a different story. 

News of possible short-staffing due to agents calling out sick instead of working without pay was first reported by CNN on Friday. President of the TSA employee union, Hydrick Thomas, told the network that call-out rates have increased by up to 300%, with some 170 agents calling out sick at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport last week.

Read more: TSA airport screeners have been working without pay during the shutdown and now many don't have money to get to work

In the CNN report, a TSA spokesperson does not deny the call-outs, but added that wait times had remained well within usual standards. Still, Tyler Houlton, a DHS press secretary, called the report "fake news" on Twitter. That irked Twitter user Jeremy Villano, who asked if the lines usually hit the front door. "You need to stop lying," he said in response. Advertisement

"This problem of call outs is really going to explode over the next week or two when employees miss their first paycheck," a union official at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport told CNN. "TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs."

On Monday, the government shutdown entered its 17th day, making it one of the longest in American history.