Travel And Tourism Concern Grow As U.S. Shutdown Continues

Travel And Tourism Concern Grow As U.S. Shutdown Continues

Concerns about how the U.S. government shutdown is affecting the tourism and travel industry are growing stronger every day.

U.S. airline pilots last week sent a strongly worded missive to U.S. President Donald Trump warning of safety issues. Air Canada has warned Canadians that they could face slowdowns at U.S. customs.

the heat on Trump and the U.S. Congress grew a little stronger with a new statement from the powerful U.S. Travel Association.

“The ability to travel in the U.S. is a nonpartisan issue, and airports, visas and Customs appeared largely unaffected by the partial federal shutdown before Monday,” said Jonathan Grella, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs at the U.S.T.A. “But if aspects of the shutdown are beginning to hinder the air travel process, political leaders need to understand that there will be immediate and measurable harm to the U.S. economy and jobs — and those concerns are non-partisan, as well.

“The U.S. travel community is closely monitoring developments and is prepared to quantify the economic fallout of related travel disruptions so that policymakers stay fully informed,” Grella cautioned.

A story posted yesterday at Forbes.com noted that “Security lines at airports across the country are starting to grow long as nationwide action from Transportation Security Agency (TSA) workers starts to take its toll.”

The Wall Street Journal Monday night reported that TSA officials are bracing for the likelihood that more airport security screeners will stop coming to work if they aren’t paid at the end of this week.

TSA officials have noted an uptick in workers calling in sick over the past few days as the U.S. government shutdown lingers. On Friday, about 5.5 percent of the TSA workforce called out at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, compared with 3.5 percent on a normal day, Associated Press reported.

The influential Air Lines Pilots Association, International union sent a warning note to Trump late last week.

“On behalf of the 61,000 pilots of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), I am writing to urge you to take the necessary steps to immediately end the shutdown of government agencies that is adversely affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system,” ALPA president Captain Joe DePete said in his letter to Trump, which also was sent to congressional leaders. “The nation’s airspace system is a complex transportation network that involves government and industry partnerships to function properly, and the disruptions being caused by the shutdown are threatening the safe operations of this network. The government agency partners in the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have dual roles. They are both regulators and service providers. When any of their responsibilities are placed on pause due to a shutdown there are safety, security and efficiency gaps that immediately emerge.”

Air Canada is suggesting that customers travelling to the U.S. arrive at Canadian airports three hours prior to their scheduled departure time due to processing times of customers by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

“We are seeing longer than average wait times for passengers travelling to the US,” said Toronto Pearson spokeswoman Robin Smith. “Wait times vary depending on the time of day, but mornings are a peak time for departure to the US. We’re right at the end of the holiday busy season, so that may be a contributing factor to these increased wait times.

“In terms of passenger messaging, we have been using Twitter to recommend that travellers to the US arrive 3 hours early so that they can pass through customs and security with time to relax at their gate before boarding. We’ve been in touch with airline partners, as well, and they are issuing similar updates. The 3-hour rule is a general rule that we use year-round, not just right now.”

WestJet’s Lauren Stewart said they, too, are suggesting US-bound guests arrive three hours early, but she said that recommendation is because of general traffic after the holidays and isn’t related to the shutdown.

In a statement emailed to TravelPulse Canada, Brand USA officials said that the “agencies that make the United States a safe and welcoming travel destination remain open.

“Consular Officers at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world continue to conduct visa interviews,” officials said. “Customs and Border Protection officers at U.S. ports of entry and Transportation Security Officers at U.S.-based departures remain on the job, and air traffic controllers continue to keep the airways operating safely and efficiently. It is outside of Brand USA’s legal authority to comment on travel policy, so our role is to communicate that information in tandem with our ongoing efforts to promote the range of diverse destinations and nearly limitless travel experiences available in the USA.”

TravelPulse Canada

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