PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Phoenix Sky Harbor could be losing even more workers. Beginning Monday, all Transportation Security Administration employees are required to be vaccinated. This is happening at one of the busiest times of the year. Now travelers are raising concerns about how this could impact their holiday plans.

Thanksgiving is usually the start of the busy holiday travel period. The TSA says the mandate should not impact wait times at the airport, but travelers say they are going to take precautions just to be safe. “There is the potential if you do not have an approved exemption and you aren’t vaccinated that you will lose your job,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said.

TSA vaccine mandate

The TSA says the mandate should not impact wait times at the airport

“I think it’s going to be an issue,” traveler Martin Micale said. Most federal workers must be vaccinated by Monday. This comes as millions of Americans prepare to take to the skies this upcoming week.

“I don’t think they should expect chaos,” Pekoske said. Pekoske said he doesn’t think this mandate will impact Thanksgiving travel. “We are very confident this will be a smooth operation over the next couple of days,” Pekoske said.

But for passengers at Sky Harbor, they worry it could lead to fewer workers and longer waits. “We just know we have to be here earlier and anticipate there will be more lines because it is possible TSA employees will stop working because of the vaccine requirements,” traveler Julia Lange said.

“There is going to be a lot of people traveling and I just think there are going to be longer lines,” Micale said.

It’s unclear when an employee could be fired if they don’t get the vaccine. Before firing someone, the feds say to first try educating them about the vaccine, which could mean it’s unlikely anyone will lose their job during the Thanksgiving holiday. “We have a lot of employees who have asked for medical or religious exemptions as well, so we will go through the process of looking through each one of those individual cases and make a determination over the next several weeks,” Pekoske said.

We reached out to the TSA Phoenix branch to see how many employees at Sky Harbor are vaccinated.

In a statement they said: “Our compliance rate with the federal employee mask mandate is very high, however we don’t have the full data yet. TSA does not anticipate that the federal employee vaccine mandate will in any way impact the agency’s ability to staff for Thanksgiving travel. We continue to work diligently to implement the vaccine requirement, including by promoting vaccination and ensuring every TSA employee is uploading their attestation information.”

“I guess we will just have to see,” Lange said. Passengers are hoping travel will flow smoothly as airports already begin to fill up. “I’d say get there early,” Micale said.

The TSA is encouraging passengers to get to the airport with plenty of time before their flight, especially on the busiest travel days, which are Tuesday, Wednesday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

 

Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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