Miami International Airport plans to close one of its terminals early for three days starting this weekend. The concern? There may not be enough screeners showing up to work as the government shutdown drags into another week.
Starting Saturday and lasting through Monday, Miami will close the Transportation Security Administration checkpoints on its G Concourse at 1 p.m. local time.
“Due to an increased number of TSA screeners not reporting to work, we have decided to take this precautionary step and relocate about 12 flights to adjoining concourses in the afternoons,” Miami spokesman Greg Chin tells The Miami Herald.
Passengers will not be able to access the terminal once the checkpoint closes, forcing carriers operating afternoon flights from the G Concourse to shift flights to other terminals at the airport. Passengers arriving to the G Concourse after 1 p.m. will be able to exit the terminal as normal, but businesses in the wing will close after 1 p.m. during the three days of the early closure.
“We felt we had to make a decision before the weekend,” Chin said to the Herald. “They’re erring on the side of caution.”
He said TSA workers in Miami have been calling in sick at twice the national average at the airport. While the TSA says that issue has been overblown at other big airports, the situation in Miami was severe enough that TSA and airport officials there weren’t confident they’d have enough screeners at all of the airport’s checkpoints.
Miami is one of the United States’ busiest airports, a major hub for American Airlines and one of the nation’s top gateways to Latin America.
However, the G Concourse is home to airlines that generally have a small footprint at Miami. United is the biggest carrier flying from Miami’s G Concourse, which also hosts departures for Aruba Airlines, Bahamasair, Frontier and Sun Country.
Chin tells the Herald the G Concourse was picked for the closures because it is one the least busy at the airport. He adds that only 12 flights depart from G after 1 p.m. on a typical day.
Miami’s move comes amid reports that TSA agents are calling out sick – or quitting altogether – as they face the prospect of being forced to work without pay as the shutdown continues to cripple the government.
The TSA has disputed many of those reports, saying they have been overblown.
Friday is the first day that TSA agents and other federal workers in the aviation industry are missing a paycheck, so industry observers will be keeping a close eye to see how that affects travel.
Even before the decision to close the G Concourse early, Miami’s airport had been advising customers to arrive early amid the shutdown.
“Due to the federal funding lapse, we recommend arriving at least 2 hours before your domestic flight and 3 hours before your international flight this weekend,” the airport said via Twitter on Thursday.