SEA-TAC, Wash. - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said only 60% of its employees nationwide have at least one vaccine against COVID-19.
With the federal government’s vaccine requirement deadline approaching, some people worry about a possible TSA staff shortage and how it could impact holiday travels.
Some people at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport said they hope the threat of a TSA staff shortage doesn’t lead to long lines during the holiday season.
"If I was traveling, I would definitely be worried. I’d probably show up like a few hours earlier. Because they say two hours earlier now, but if they have a staff shortage I would say alright five hours earlier," said Danielle Parker, an active Navy member traveling from Japan to a new assignment in California.
The deadline for civilian federal government employees to be fully vaccinated is Nov. 22, right before Thanksgiving. The deadline to get the first Moderna shot has already passed (Oct. 11), and the first Pfizer dose should be done by Oct. 18 in order to meet the requirement. The last option is a Johnson & Johnson shot by Nov. 8.
"Some people work in jobs that are going to impact the public. Hopefully, that’s part of their decision, but it’s a personal decision they have to make. And for the traveling public, they have to understand that there are things that impact traveling and there may be delays," said Mike Simmons, who showed up early to the airport for his flight to California.
The threat of a TSA staff shortage could cause a ripple effect on the hospitality industry, already struggling to recover from the pandemic.
"There’s so much hassle with everything now. This will just be one more thing of why bother—why bother with this travel? Why bother the expense and all of the frustrations?" said Tom Waithe, general manager of The Alexis Royal Sonesta Hotel Seattle.
Waithe said the hotel loses business travelers during the holidays and depends on leisure travelers to fill the gap. He said fewer people are traveling for business due to the pandemic. Waithe said he worries people may cancel reservations to avoid long waits at the airport.
"If I don’t have that corporate group, and I don’t have those business travelers, and I don’t have leisure travelers, I don’t have anybody. And that makes a lot of empty hotel rooms," said Waithe. "It’s just one more thing to be a giant irritant in an irritating time."
The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that travel restrictions will be lifted at the Canada and Mexico borders in November. Waithe said reopening the border to welcome back Canadian guests is the silver lining in the ever-changing pandemic.
"The hoards of Canadians that have been waiting to come into Seattle will actually return and that will help somewhat," said Waithe. "That will be the one saving grace for the holiday season, but the TSA along with all the other things is just going to be another brick on everybody’s back as far as getting business back where it needs to be."
Officials with the Port of Seattle said they can’t comment on TSA staffing, but mentioned, "We have confidence in their management of their staff for the upcoming holidays." TSA said says it continues emphasizing the importance of vaccinations through, "regularly scheduled town hall meetings, shift briefs, and broadcast messages to the workforce."
Stay connected with FOX 13 News on all platforms:
DOWNLOAD: FOX 13 News and Weather Apps
WATCH: FOX 13 News Live
SUBSCRIBE: FOX 13 on YouTube
DAILY BRIEF: Sign Up For Our Newsletter
FOLLOW: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram