With 93% of Transportation Security Administration employees in compliance with Monday’s deadline for COVID-19 vaccinations, no disruptions to holiday travel are expected, the agency announced.
The vaccine mandate affecting more than 3.5 million federal workers was announced by President Joe Biden in September. The workers were required to undergo vaccination, with no with option to get regularly tested instead, unless they secured an approved medical or religious exemption.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske said last week that he expects agency staffing to be sufficient for what’s traditionally TSA’s busiest travel period.
The number of airline passengers traveling for Thanksgiving this year is expected to rebound to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.
“We are prepared,” Pekoske told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He said travelers should expect long lines at airports and plan to spend a little more time getting through security.
In 2019, a record 26 million passengers and crew passed through U.S. airport screening in the 11-day period around Thanksgiving. But that plummeted in 2020 as the pandemic kept people at home.
Pekoske said he didn’t think the vaccine mandate going into effect for TSA agents Monday would have any effect on staffing for Thanksgiving next week.
“In fact, implementation of the mandate will make travel safer and healthier for everyone,” he said. “So, we see quite a significant increase in the number of our officers that are vaccinated, and I’m very confident that there will be no impact for Thanksgiving.”
Pekoske told NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday he remains “very concerned” about the issue of unruly passengers as incidents on airplanes have continued.
“The level of unruly behavior is much higher than I’ve ever seen it,” he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration says it has referred 37 cases involving unruly airline passengers to the FBI for possible criminal prosecution since the number of disruptions on flights began to spike in January.