With 40% Of TSA Screeners Unvaccinated, Airports May Soon Start Melting Down

Forty percent of the TSA workforce is unvaccinated ahead of a November 22 deadline.

Pilots are protesting vaccine mandates, and some at the very end of their careers facing mandatory retirement anyway might call it quits a little early. Some mechanics might do the same. But the incredible vaccination rate success at United, and Delta’s announcement of 90% vaccinations so far, suggests that in the end most airline employees will follow procedures. Delta’s CEO doesn’t see employees losing their jobs and Southwest is pushing them to seek religious and medical exemptions.

Airline jobs are – for the most part – good jobs, so there’s a real cost to not complying with vaccine rules imposed by their employers (in most cases under pressure from the federal government). But how good a job is TSA screener? You get to call yourself an officer and wear a blue uniform but you’re not law enforcement. The agency has a massive discipline problem to begin with.

So while most of the focus has been on airline workforce issues, and whether a federal deadline of December 8 to comply will wreak havoc on holiday travel (American Airlines says they’ll begin termination proceedings on the Wednesday before thanksgiving!), a big mess could come out of TSA screeners ineligible to work because they’re unvaccinated.

TSA PreCheck at Washington National Airport

Make sure you have TSA PreCheck – but also CLEAR, though of course that isn’t available everywhere (thanks, American!).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Case rates are plummeting around the country, and yet just as life could really be returning to normal the government is coming in like a wrecking ball. From healthcare shortages in the Northeast (remember when we cared about that), to travel delays, manufacturing shortages, and more, vaccine mandates are and will cause massive disruptions or our lives and economies while offering no proven benefit whatsoever.
    (Disclaimer for the trolls: I am vaccinated, I am pro-vax, and I am not a Trump supporter. If you want to disagree with my comment please engage with the argument rather than name-call like a four year-old)

  2. The State Department has already melted down. Want to travel for Christmas but need to renew your passport? Tough luck, as its a 10-12 week process if you pay to expedite it, and the local Passport Agencies are barely taking appointments “due to the threat of Covid” despite the fact that every other sort of enterprise somehow manages to stay open and do work.

  3. @Doug

    Vaccine mandates have resulted in greater uptake of the vaccine, which reduces total mortality, reduced hospitalization rate, and reduced long-term consequences.

    One could even argue that the vaccine mandates are a cause of the case rate plummeting. (I don’t actually believe that, but it’s at least as plausible at your argument.) The Delta wave receding is mostly just natural ebbing, but contributing to that is less fuel (fewer vulnerable people), caused by past infections, past vaccination, recent infections, and recent vaccination.

  4. If that isn’t a clear demonstration of the type of low mental horsepower individuals filling the anti-vax ranks, I don’t know what is.

  5. @Doug;

    Case rates are indeed plummeting; that is the best reason to not ease up on fighting the pandemic. Yes, the prospect of requiring a vaccine as a condition of employment is scary to some. I respect the misgivings.

    At present, the evidence is that employer “mandates” are working and working well. Some excellent reporting in the Washington Post is here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/09/29/evidence-is-building-vaccine-mandates-work-well/

    There is similar reporting in the NYT, and Forbes.

    We will have to see if/how much disruption is caused, however, from the current experience, said disruption has been minimal compared to the pandemic, and has yielded high vaccination rates which can help to end the pandemic.

  6. Vaccine mandates will indeed create some short term disruption, but the value is to get past the tragedy once and for all. It is those who don’t get vaccinated that continue to perpetuate the tragedy now, With mandates there will increasingly be more and more people protected and numbers will continue to decline. I would rather put up with a longer TSA wait in the short term than still be fighting the COVID mask/vaccine/social distancing battles a decade from now, which is what I fear inaction could lead to.

  7. @Doug, the US cases are “plummeting” to levels that the rest of the world would consider horrifying. Per capita case rates are triple those of Canada and fatality rates are 4 times Canada’s.

  8. @Doug…all that and refusal to recognize the strong immunity resulting from Covid infection and recovery. Add to that the thousands of unvaccinated and untested people streaming across the borders every month and being scattered throughout the country. This vaccine mandate is nothing more than a power trip by the Federal government regardless of the impact on our economy. Troll alert: my entire family is vaccinated and mask where appropriate.

  9. @ Doug – Ever consider that case rates are coming down BECAUSE of increased vaccinations?

    It’s not the entire reason, but it’s likely one of them.

  10. Government mandates are the reason I will not get vaxxinated.

    Cases and deaths keep plunging, in open states/closed states.
    Mask mandates clearly do nothing (just look at the data)
    Private health decisions are driving a new segregation (which is popular??)

    The country is bankrupt.
    We have military bases in 140+ countries.
    We murder cilvilans around the world.
    We do what big business tells us (from military to medical now)

    And the people love it. Just love it.

    It’s like watching reality TV 15 years ago.

    You guys need to look behind the curtain. The emperor isn’t as powerful as you claim.

  11. The Biden administration has got to be secretly hoping the courts nullify the mandates after the usual injunctions.

    That way the maximum number of people who could be influenced will be, without the consequences of a transportation meltdown and mass layoffs during the holidays.

    I hope they are strategic enough to make sure the mandates will be easily struck down. Is that too much to ask for? People governing us who under that sometimes the best outcome is a strategic loss?

    Dare to dream.

  12. @Don, add me to that list

    @Dave S, as long as the left is in power, you will be wearing masks no matter what the COVID rates do

  13. Given the negative trends that I’ve seen in travel recently (irrational retaliatory international travel requirements, risk of a future testing/vaccination requirement that may not be well thought out for U.S. travel, hotels that can’t provide basic services like meals and cleaning, and now risk that vaccine mandates may exacerbate staffing issues), I’m not booking any travel next year. It makes more sense to use the money to improve our patio and pool area, since staying home will likely be more pleasant and less stressful.

  14. Gary’s point is valid. There are a large number of unvaccinated people in all kinds of roles in the economy that do not want to get vaccinated for whatever reason.
    While the internet is full of “just throw them overboard” messages, no one including the President has a clue about the impact on society when even 10% of people are pulled out of the workforce on top of the record low workforce participation rate the US is currently seeing.
    When gas stations run dry, grocery shelves are emptied (even more than they are now), hospitals require you to schedule even emergency services weeks in advance, and you can’t even spend your money other than to give give cards, maybe the light will finally go on for some that mandates were a bad idea and for the most part, probably will not be permissible in legal challenges as they are being pushed right now.

  15. I’ve recently seen precheck and regular security lines like that in the picture at DCA in the morning. I joined Clear years ago, before precheck was a thing (and it was really worthwhile back then). With precheck, I did not think Clear was worth paying for and dropped it, but picked it up again about 2 years ago when UA 1K and later Amex Plat started giving it for free. I am increasingly finding Clear saves time again, and a good Amex Plat benefit.

  16. Doug and Don are delusional, if not worse. Go visit an ICU near you (afraid to? think they are empty?) If Don needs urgent care, I hope he remembers the ICU or Emergency Room he was too afraid or lazy to visit…and figures out (wow!) why his care (sadly still given to him) is delayed. You can revisit your crazed conspiracy theories while youwait.

  17. This…gas prices..supply chain…inflation…you name it….starting to understand how it feels for those living in Venezuela…….

  18. For all the bleating about “FOLLOW THE MUH SCIENCE”, when the government and the sheep refuse to even discuss natural immunity now matter what the “science” says, I know you are just willing to give your free will to a controlling government and big pharma. We laugh at you for thinking you are superior. We laugh, we mock you, and when side effects of taking an unproven, unscientific jab happen I will be the first to be shouting for hospitals not to treat you for being so stupid in the first place. I don’t want you on airplanes or anywhere else in society. Now go back to listening to NPR and enjoy your faux superiority while it lasts.

  19. Pretty sad that 4 out of 10 tsa people you will encounter on your journey are careless disease spreaders. Government-paid infectious disease-spreaders. Yeah they should definitely have a mandate. Any private citizen that is selfish enough to continue being a disease-spreader (like a smoker spreading second-hand smoke — it’s the same thing!) can be as they wish, but shouldn’t be allowed to mix with the citizens actually doing the right thing by protecting themselves, their neighbors, and their country.

    So sad that people are just willing to do the right thing. We could be back to normal by now had it not been for these selfish spreaders.

  20. @ChadMC “Any private citizen that is selfish enough to continue being a disease-spreader (like a smoker spreading second-hand smoke — it’s the same thing!) can be as they wish, but shouldn’t be allowed to mix with the citizens actually doing the right thing by protecting themselves, their neighbors, and their country.”

    Since both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can spread COVID, I assume you’re either staying in your house or only venturing out in a hazmat suit? Either that or you’re not doing the “right thing”?

  21. I just hope these comments aren’t a representative cross section of the country. But I fear they are.
    We’ll have covid for decades with this idiocy.

  22. My friend works for TSA. They went out to get the vaccine of their own accord because they wanted to protect themselves. TSA are front line workers who have been in the public since the entire pandemic. They have not received hazard pay as they should have. Also if the govt. gave a crap about the TSA the GOVT. should have asked for a supply of vaccines for ALL of their front-line workers. At this point alot of them figure natural immunity since they have had to be around this entire pandemic with no true protections. How are they now going to force a vaccine on their workers when at the beginning they didn’t and still don’t give a crap about their workers. One could also say the disease spreaders are the ones also flying during a pandemic, vaccinated for not. Also, my friend has said that when they have kindly asked people to social distance that they have been told to f**k themselves.

  23. Mak,
    My wifes passport was expired. On Aug 15th I sent in her application for renewal, paid the $60 expedite fee and had the new passport on Sep 3rd. I was also told that it was 12-18 weeks wait. We left for France on Oct 10. No guarantees but I don’t think the wait is as long as they say.

  24. Can the Covid Karens name their price? First it was two weeks of lock down so we can get back to normal. Later masking, then double-masking.
    When the vaccines came, they were bad and untrustworthy because of Trump, yet weeks later the line was that we had to vaccinate 60% of the population to “be done with it”.
    We’re pretty much there now, yet the rage and fury only grow.

    Anyone who isn’t vaccinated is a “disease spreader”, an enemy of the people, stopping us all from getting it “over with”.

    But this is just another brick in the wall. Next will be mandatory children’s’ jabs, with any fearful parent demonized as a science-denier (though healthy kids are about as likely to die of Covid as from lightning).
    Then boosters, and continued marking, all with continuously amplified levels of froth and gaslighting.
    Enough. You’re vaccinated? Great, go out and be merry, and leave the rest of us alone.

  25. I hope is causes massive havoc. The more Biden messes up the better change the GOP has to take over again in a year and stop the far left foolishness.

  26. Turns out that over 10,000 of them caught COVID.

    How many were spreading it to passengers?

    Madness, why didn’t they make the mandate earlier? As always, the Feds move too slow — TSA should be like United, 100% vaccination outside of medical exceptions.

  27. Lol vaccine reduces the effects of the illness. It doesn’t prevent you from getting sick or transmitting it.

    Zero sense arguing about this. Majority of people parrot garbage science and lies. I got the vaccine because before the reality of how worthless it really is came out. Zero chance I get a booster of the same crappy solution.

    Much like with the mask mandates, you have moderate IQ people blindly following policy.

    FYI – the demographics of the TSA are why rates are so low. I’m sure it’s because rural, southern, white, Trump supporters are the majority of the rank and file LOL

  28. Flying already has been transformed into a major suckfest. I just flew DAL-STL-JAX-ATL-DAL. By 6pm, most hot food eateries were closed, the ones that were open had ABSURDLY long lines (30 minutes plus), and many that ARE open don’t take cash. It’s certainly soured me on flying.

  29. Vaccinated individual can still spread COVID and because they are less likely to be symptomatic may actually pose a greater risk than an unvaccinated person who is testing and taking necessary precautions. For those individuals who blindly trust that this vaccine is safe no one in the government is posting the number of deaths as a result of complications from receiving the vaccine…my cousin 62 years old, fully vaccinated died from complications from the vaccine…this is the reason that many people remain hesitant to get the vaccine.
    Nurses in California testified before their local government officials about the horrific things they are seeing with reactions to the vaccine by some individuals but the Federal Government is downplaying this information. If front line healthcare workers are still uncomfortable with the vaccine I think that should cause all of us to pause and consider our own family health history so that we are making informed decisions before taking an EUA vaccine…no one else can do that for you or I…we are all responsible to insure that we are giving informed consent for any medical treatment.

  30. It is interesting that vaccine mandates are now being looked at as a reason that the Xmas shopping and traveling season could be a “disaster”. What BS, bottom line, the more vaccinated people the longer we can keep our economy and lifestyle closest to what it was pre pandemic (many things will never go back to that time). If you read about the problems with supplies and labor shortages there are many factors why it is happening. Pent up demand after opening was the first factor, but the biggest was the the fact of the federal government (Trump and Biden) just dumped a lot of free money in peoples laps and they are now spending it like a drunk sailor on shore leave. Our issue is exasperated by over consumption. People have money saved and are no hurry to go back to work. One of the reasons? FEAR OF COVID. So please stop the talk that vaccines are the reasons for so many of our ills, there are many more factors than I touched upon but the bottom line is, the lower the Covid19 infections and deaths and the higher vaccination rate, the better chance we have of putting this nightmare in the past. Since when does a medical emergency like a Pandemic entitles politician’s and incredible ignorance on social media become experts on the solution AND medical experts? Why are vaccination mandates taking a persons “rights” away? Why is the fact that the unvaccinated are not taking my “rights” away by putting so many people in danger and the massive of waste of money taking care of these people in hospitals. What about all the people that have died because they could not get treatment for problems that were non lethal if attended too in an ICU, oh wait, that can’t because of the selfish, ignorant people who are whining about their “rights” while killing these people. Just sad. Why do I care that the Xmas shopping season will be ruined? So our economy takes a seasonal hit and that is what this country worries about when most of the world cannot get one vaccine.

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