The expected increase in holiday travel and the possible dismissal of unvaccinated Transport Security Administration agents will not cause chaos at the country’s airports, the TSA chief said on Wednesday.
The latest data show that around 40% of the agency’s staff had not received any vaccine against COVID-19 or had not sent their vaccination status last month despite the November 22 deadline. Experts fear a possible shortage of staff will create the perfect storm at U.S. airports, which are expected to see up to 80 percent more travelers compared to last year, reaching levels close to the pandemic.
But TSA administrator David Pekoske dismissed those concerns, saying most passengers would have to wait about 30 minutes for security.
“If he’s a pre-check passenger, 10 minutes or less,” Pekoske told CBS Mornings.
“I don’t think chaos should be expected … We are very confident that this will be a very smooth operation over the next few days,” he said.
Regarding the, Pekoske said the number of TSA employees who have received at least one shot has “improved a lot” and that he does not expect Monday’s deadline to have “any impact on Thanksgiving trips.”
“And the good news for travelers is that more and more people, including TSA employees, are now vaccinated, so from a public health perspective it’s a much safer experience,” he said.
Pekoske said terminations will occur only after a “process of progressive discipline” and after each request for medical or religious exemptions is considered.
“So we will go through the examination process of each of these individual cases and make a determination over the next few weeks,” he said. “Yes, there is a possibility that if you do not have an approved exemption and you are not vaccinated, you will lose your job because it is very important that we have our staff fully vaccinated.”
In addition to flying, millions of Americans are also expected to hit the roads this Thanksgiving holiday projecting that 53 million people will travel next week.