Massive lines at NYC airport amid worries about government shutdown, TSA callouts

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TSA agents are among the government employees that are being asked to work without pay during the Trump-imposed shutdown.

Kennedy International Airport, as many as 170 TSA employees have called out each day this week, Thomas tells CNN.

Sarah Burgisser, who works for one of the airlines, said early Saturday morning passengers were waiting hours to get through security.

The publication said whereas 25 to 30 TSA staff are absent from a typical shift, the numbers at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport had shot up by 200-300 percent.

But union officials insisted that many of those calling out sick are just taking backup jobs so they can pay their bills; others can no longer afford child care and are forced to stay home with the kids.

In a tweet, DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton accused the network of failing to validate its data and not reaching out to agency officials for verification.

"Security operations at airports have not been impacted by a non-existent sick out", he tweeted in part on Friday.

"Security effectiveness" will not be affected, but travelers may experience longer wait times, TSA spokesman Michael Bilello explained.

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Agency and union officials told CNN that since the shutdown began December 22, an increased number of sick days was taking its toll on security at four United States airports at least.

TSA issued a statement in response to CNN's report: "Call outs began over the Holiday period and have increased, but are causing minimum impact given there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process".

That's according to two senior agency officials and three TSA employee union officials.

Screening wait times could be affected due to the number of absent agents, the statement said.

Other airport employees called the situation unmanageable and said frantic passengers were left crying in line. "That number will get worse as this drags on". "@spoxdhs & @realdonaldtrump may not like the truth but that won't stop us from reporting", the news outlet wrote, adding the hashtag "FactsFirst". Reports say the impasse could possibly last weeks to years.

For now, Donald Trump and congressional leaders have met but have yet to find a resolution that will end the shutdown. That means TSA officials at airports around the country - cognizant that long security lines frustrate passengers - could have tough decisions to make, including whether to let passengers board flights with less scrutiny.

In what one official dubbed the "blue flu", hundreds of blue-uniformed TSA officials have been calling out sick in recent days as the shutdown stretches on and their salaries go unpaid.