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How are NC airports faring after report of TSA workers calling in sick during shutdown?

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Despite reports of Transportation Security Administration workers calling in sick during the partial federal government shutdown, there have not been significant impacts at North Carolina airports, a TSA official said.

Maximum standard wait time at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Friday was 16 minutes, TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said, and maximum wait time for TSA PreCheck was three minutes.

About 94 percent of people had less than a 15 minute wait at CLT on Friday, Bilello said.

While numbers weren’t available for Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Bilello said that, like Charlotte, there has been “minimal impact.”

If RDU was short on staff because of the shutdown, it wasn’t noticed by some of Saturday’s passengers interviewed by a News & Observer reporter.

Around noon, roughly 20 travelers were waiting in line to get their IDs checked by TSA workers at RDU’s main terminal. And few dozen other people were using one of three lines, plus an expedited TSA PreCheck queue, to have their carry-on bags screened.

Most of those lines dissipated within 15 minutes, leaving the security checkpoint area mostly empty.

Things also seemed to be moving normally at Charlotte on Saturday.

CNN has reported that hundreds of TSA officers were not showing up for work in the hub cities of New York and Dallas, possibly as a response to not being paid during the shutdown.

In that report, CNN said security staff call-outs had increased by 10 percent at CLT and RDU airports, quoting Mac Johnson, a local TSA workers’ union president.

Attempts to reach Johnson on Saturday were unsuccessful.

Bilello said he could not validate that 10 percent number, but based on wait times and other data, call-outs have had minimal to no impact on airports in North Carolina and nationwide.

He also said workers have yet to miss a paycheck, and that their next payday is Friday. They have until the middle of next week to secure those funds, Bilello said.

“We’re monitoring the situation very closely as we always do,” Bilello said. “We’re always watching to make sure airports are properly staffed with TSA officers.”

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The Terminal 2 security area at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, as seen in this March 2017 file photo. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

Spokespeople from both CLT and RDU referred questions about TSA staffing to TSA.

CNN’s coverage was countered by tweets from both a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson and the TSA.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had strong words for CNN.

Bilello's official response was more neutral.

The world won't end if Washington can't find a way to pass a funding bill. That's the truth about a government "shutdown": the government doesn't shut down.

Rashaan Ayesh is The News & Observer’s Fact Checking Fellow. She looks into claims made by politicians and pundits all over North Carolina. She grew up in Raleigh and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Contact her at rayesh@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4802.
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