U.S. government shutdown causes travel delays for Canadians

Canadians travelling to the U.S. may want to check their flight status or plan for delays because of a shortage of American airport screeners, as the U.S. government shutdown became the longest in history on the weekend.

Saturday marked Day 22 of the shutdown over the funding President Donald Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The previous record was 21 days under former president Bill Clinton.

CNN reported Saturday that Miami International Airport will close a concourse early for three days because of a shortage of Transportation Security Administration screeners, who were not reporting for work. The New York Times reported Friday that extreme financial hardship was causing TSA employees to either resign and look for other work or call in sick. The concern was that if the impasse continues travel will be thrown into turmoil in the U.S.

TSA’s 51,000 airport security agents are federal employees, who are required to work without pay during the partial shutdown.

On this side of the border, YVR spokesperson Andrea Pham said all operations at Vancouver International Airport were normal on Saturday, but recommended passengers check their flight status before coming to the airport.

Meantime, Canadians trying to renew or get a Nexus pass, which speeds up border entry for low-risk Canadians, were told earlier this week that they would have to wait until the shutdown ends.

The Canada Border Service Agency said while some of the Nexus enrolment centres in Canada are open and completing the Canadian portion of the enrolment process, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection was not processing applications because of the shutdown.

The CBSA recommended people contact the centre before attending a scheduled appointment, adding that when the shutdown has ended, applicants will need to reschedule their interviews with U.S. Customs.

Reports that “sick” U.S. border employees have affected security were dismissed by the Transportation Security Administration, which released a statement last weekend saying that while sick calls had increased over the holidays, security effectiveness has not been compromised and screening wait times were “well within TSA standards.”

The agency said Monday that 99.8 per cent of passengers nationwide waited in screening lineups for less than 30 minutes. However, that could change if the shutdown continues and TSA workers become more strapped for income.

ticrawford@postmedia.com

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