Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, who screen airline passengers before flights aren’t getting paychecks right now due to the partial federal government shut down; however, so far, there’s been no negative effect on operations at Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA).
That was the word from PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker at the Tuesday, Jan. 22 meeting of the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority.
The TSA is part of the US Department of Homeland Security, one of the departments that’s been affected by the government shutdown. Though there are some reports elsewhere of airports having problems due to the TSA situation, so far PTIA has been faring well in that regard.
“To date, we have had very little to no issues at all,” Baker said while addressing the question of the shutdown and the TSA agents at the meeting of the Airport Authority.
“Our team is staying in touch with the leadership of the TSA,” Baker said, adding that he and his staff were also communicating with other federal agencies involved in airport functions.
Baker said the government shutdown clearly isn’t something the airport has any control over, but he added that PTIA is trying to take steps to see that the situation doesn’t hamper airport operations.
He said one thing staff is doing is staying in communication with TSA officials.
“They’re going to give us a heads up if they start to see any issues,” Baker told the board. “There’s not a lot that airports can do, obviously, in a worst-case scenario – if they don’t show up or something like that. But we have been working with them as closely as we can.”
According to Baker, PTIA has an excellent relationship with the TSA. He said the airport had given federal employees vouchers for some free food at PTIA – though it wasn’t much, he added – and airport vendors were offering a 35 percent discount for federal workers affected by the shutdown.
He said the general public is chipping in in a big way.
“You wouldn’t believe all of the folks who are coming out to help support them,” Baker said.
Stephanie Freeman, the marketing and customer relations manager for the airport, also said the public was helping out.
“Just regular old people are calling in,” she told the authority members. “They are saying, ‘I’m at Stamey’s Barbeque and I want to bring them lunch – tell me how many you’ve got,’ and they came out here and just brought barbeque for everybody.”
Freeman added that people had been posting messages on Facebook asking ways they could help the TSA agents, while others had brought down things to the airport unannounced.
Airport Authority Member Jim White said PTIA must keep a close watch on any developments.
“It has been a concern of mine for the last 30 days,” he said. “They are an intricate part of this airport and how this airport is able to function – not only efficiently, but function at all.”
White said he felt the authority should help in any way possible.
“It can’t go on forever,” he said. “A gift card is fabulous, but it’s not going to take the place of a paycheck. I would like to see us positioned so that we can help somehow.”
White said he suspects that the airport may see issues if the government shutdown continues much longer.
Koury Corp. President Steve Showfety, the chairman of the Airport Authority, said the board honored the airport’s TSA agents two years ago because they do such an excellent job.
“They continue to do that day in and day out, so we are trying to figure out some way to salute their efforts as this thing hopefully winds up,” Showfety said.