Big Island TSA Agents Continue to Work With No Pay

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The federal government shutdown will mark the 35th day of it’s shutdown on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. During this longest shutdown in US history, many government employees will not receive their second paycheck.

The TSA check-in station at the Hilo airport on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. BIN photo.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents make up 51,000 of the 420,000 federal employees who are deemed “essential and must report to work—even when they aren’t getting a paycheck,” according to a Vox article. “According to the TSA, agent absences reached 6.8% on Jan. 14 and 6.1% on Jan. 15, significantly higher than on the same days last year.”

All federal government employees will be paid for their work at some point in time; however, they have no idea when that may be.

The lack of staffing has led to a variety of concerns for flyers. The lack of certainty about the future has led to pressing concerns for TSA agents.


The TSA is one of the lowest-paying federal agencies. The typical starting salary of a TSA agent is approximately $20,000. In states like Hawai‘i, $20K doesn’t go far. With President Donald Trump declaring that the shutdown could last for “months” or even “years,” it is easy to understand their concerns.

Big Island Now attempted to call or meet with airport officials and find out about TSA absences at Hilo Airport, but no one was available.

No TSA agents were willing to talk to Big Island Now about their situation, either.


TSA spokesperson Michael Bilello tweeted, “security standards remain uncompromised at our nation’s airports,” but Hilo airport officials were not available for comment.

“While national average wait times are within normal TSA times of 30 minutes for standard lanes … some airports experienced longer than usual wait times,” TSA said in a statement.

At 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24, there were no lines at Hilo airport, according to a Big Island Now reporter.


According to a Vox article, the airways remain safe now, but potential for future delays exists because air traffic controllers—also essential employees—have also been working without paychecks. If they start calling in sick, the government may have to limit the amount of air traffic.

Hawai‘i Transportation Security Manager Matthew Droge was not available for comment at the time of publication.

Big Island Now will follow up with airport officials and update this story as soon as possible.

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