Travel Looks to Return to Normal Operations After Government Shutdown Ends

by Daniel McCarthy
Travel Looks to Return to Normal Operations After Government Shutdown Ends

Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo had been closed since early January because of the parital government shutdown. Most are reopening this week. Photo: bakdc /

The longest-ever government shutdown ended on Friday when President Trump signed a bill to reopen the government for three weeks, giving 800,000 federal workers a chance to get paychecks that had been withheld since the shutdown started on Dec. 22, 2018.

With the government reopened, air traffic controllers, Transportation Security Administration workers, national park staff, and more are all back to work today, as the U.S. travel economy looks to get back to normal operations and Congress works securing on a longer deal.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow applauded the reopening in a statement last week, writing that the agreement “hopefully averts further disruption to air transportation, which undoubtedly would have begun to generate downstream economic damage throughout the country.

“Likewise, the reopening of national parks, plus the resumption of government travel and government-related business travel, will halt the estimated $100 million in daily cost the loss of those activities has been imposing on the economy,” he added.

Travel companies like Marriott (which said it was suffering in the Washington, D.C., market), and airlines like Southwest (which said it lost $15 million), and Delta (which said it was losing $25 million), were all calling for an end to the shutdown.

The TSA, which was long feared to be the agency most impacted by the shutdown and had been consolidating workers across the country to deal with staff shortages, released daily updates on its checkpoint operations during the shutdown. On Thursday, Jan. 24, the last full day of the shutdown, the TSA screened 1.99 million passengers and crew. Even with a callout rate of 7.6 percent, which was more than double the 3 percent callout rate from the same day last year, the TSA was able to keep security waits to 30 minutes for 99.9 percent of passengers and less than 15 minutes for 95.4 percent.

Even at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, which was forced to issue a ground stop on Friday that lasted an hour and 22 minutes because of a lack of air-traffic controllers that many thought forced the government’s hand to reopen, the TSA kept the maximum standard wait time to 15 minutes (7 minutes for PreCheck passengers).

The union representing TSA workers, American Federation of Government Employees, called the agreement “long overdue” and called on Congress to “pass full-year appropriations for all government agencies as well legislation to make all affected federal employees whole.”

“We are also urging Congress to act to prevent the use of shutdowns from ever occurring again,” J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, wrote.

National parks that had been impacted during the shutdown begun to resume regular operations over the weekend, including Valles Caldera National Preserve, Olympic National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Gettysburg National Military Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and more.

Some are not reopening as staff work to undo damage that was done — a former superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park called the damage to that park “irreparable” last week. Visitors should check with the individual park before making the trip.

Smithsonian museums and D.C.’s National Zoo are readying to reopen on Tuesday. The Smithsonian said it had been losing $1 million a week during the shutdown, according to Secretary David J. Skorton.

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