As long as the government shutdown continues, the only airport I want to connect in is San Francisco.
We’re 25 days into a government shutdown and no resolution is in sight. One result has been long security lines at U.S. airports. Transportation Security Administration workers are considered essential personnel and therefore are obligated to report to work even though they are not currently being paid. This has led many to call in sick, though the problem is not as widespread as the mainstream media paints it to be.
Even so, when I see 60+ minute waits for security in Atlanta, as was the case last weekend, I will proactively adjust my travel plans to limit unnecessary stress by connecting at the wrong airport.
Last Saturday I flew home from Europe and there was only one U.S. airport I was willing to connect in: San Francisco. Why? SFO does not have TSA agents. Instead, SFO uses Covenant Aviation Security (CAS), a private firm that administers security in coordination with the TSA on behalf of the airport. I figured since the CAS was not affected by the shutdown, a connection in SFO would be less painful than other places.
Sure enough, I had no trouble connecting from Frankfurt to Burbank at SFO. In fact, the security checkpoints were practically empty at 2:00PM. I had no wait in the PreCheck line or while having my bags screened. Looking around, it appeared that no one had a wait on this sunny Saturday afternoon.
Again, don’t succumb to the hysteria that you’ll be stuck for hours in line and miss your flight thanks to the government shutdown. Even so, there is no reason to take unnecessary chances, as we’ve seen a handful of airports overburdened by insufficient TSA manpower. Until the shutdown is over, SFO seems like the safest place to travel through. If you have a choice, choose SFO. Otherwise, you’ll still probably be fine.