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Prescott TSA, air traffic controllers work without pay

The United Express flight departs for Denver Thursday, January 10, 2019 from Prescott Regional Airport. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

The United Express flight departs for Denver Thursday, January 10, 2019 from Prescott Regional Airport. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Flights continue to come and go as planned, says the Prescott Regional Airport’s director, despite the fact that the federal employees who work to ensure safety in the air are not being paid.

Prescott Airport Director Robin Sobotta reported this week that local Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and air traffic controllers have been working without pay in the wake of the ongoing government shutdown.

At a Tuesday, Jan. 8, Prescott City Council meeting, Sobotta thanked the employees for their continued commitment to their jobs even though they are facing their first payday without a paycheck. The government shutdown began on Dec. 22, and the first missed paycheck is expected Monday, Sobotta said.

Local TSA and air traffic control employees declined to comment to The Daily Courier, but Sobotta said she had heard that some in the community had offered to help tide the employees over. “It is my understanding that some businesses have stepped up to help, and for that we are grateful,” she said.

One such move was announced by Arizona Public Service (APS) in a Jan. 8 news release. As a part of the utility’s recent $1.5 million increase in assistance for customers who are struggling to pay their electricity bills because of a sudden financial hardship, APS created a $500,000 special fund designated for Arizonans who have been affected by the federal government shutdown.

The APS Crisis Bill Assistance program is administered by a network of nonprofit community partners, states the news release, and more information is available online at

Meanwhile, Sobotta said Thursday, “Aircraft operations (at the Prescott Regional Airport) have not been negatively impacted.”

Local TSA employees referred questions to the federal department’s office of public affairs in Virginia. Thomas Kelly, spokesperson for that office, responded with a statement that air-traffic security was moving smoothly this week.

“Nationwide, TSA screened 1.74 million passengers yesterday, Wednesday, Jan. 9,” stated the TSA’s response. “99.9 percent of passengers waited less than 30 minutes; 94.8 percent of passengers less than 15 minutes.

“Security standards remain uncompromised at our nation’s airports.”

According to the TSA statement, unscheduled absences had risen slightly on Wednesday — up to 5 percent, from 3.6 percent on the same day in 2018.

“As the current lapse in funding continues, we want to echo the sentiments of industry, the traveling public and TSA leadership who are proud of and thankful for the more than 51,000 officers across the country who remain focused on the mission,” stated the TSA. “We are humbled by the acts of kindness and support from industry and the public, who clearly recognize and admire our officers’ efforts.”

The statement concluded: “Together, TSA will continue to conduct the critical work necessary to secure the nation’s transportation systems. Not on our watch.”

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