Thanksgiving travel could be a chaotic mess because Transportation Security Administration workers are largely unvaccinated as the federal deadline approaches — potentially short-staffing airports during the busy holiday, according to experts and officials.
An abysmal 40 percent of TSA employees are unvaccinated as the Biden administration’s federal worker mandate of Nov. 22 — just three days before Turkey Day — looms and plane travel rebounds in full force, airline analyst Henry Harteveldt told The Post.
“This is shaping up to be a miserable Thanksgiving holiday, at least right now, for airline passengers,” he warned. “Prepare for doomsday and be pleasantly surprised if it’s better than that.”
A plunge in the number of TSA employees allowed to work the year’s most hectic travel week could lead to longer lines at security checks, said Harteveldt, of the San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group.
“A lot of people traveling during Thanksgiving and not a lot of people available from the TSA to screen passengers equals airport security bottlenecks,” he said.
The clock is ticking as TSA workers must receive a first Pfizer jab by Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated by the deadline — and it’s already too late for potential Moderna recipients.
Meanwhile, a total of 52 percent of Americans plan to travel this holiday season, up from the 33 percent who typically do, according to a recent survey conducted by the professional services network Price Waterhouse Coopers. Of those people, 40 percent plan to fly.
Along with the Nov. 22 federal employee vaccine mandate, there’s also a Dec. 8 vaccination deadline for private companies that do business with the federal government such as airlines.
The TSA may be considering a “contingency plan” in which management fills unvaccinated employees’ shifts — but that option won’t likely work, Harteveldt said.
“The TSA is looking at several thousand employees right now who are unvaccinated. I don’t believe there are enough management employees available to backfill those workers,” he said.
The Biden administration should push back the vaccination deadlines for TSA workers along with airline workers until early next year to avoid a holiday travel nightmare, he added.
“Nobody wants to be the person you’ve got millions of consumers pointing their fingers at saying, ‘You ruined my Christmas, you ruined my Thanksgiving, you ruined my New Year’s,’” he said.
The TSA declined to comment on a plan to combat the potential airport chaos but sent The Post a statement stressing the importance of vaccinating workers.
“We anticipate the vast majority of TSA employees will get vaccinated. Thousands of TSA agents upload their vaccination status every week,” said spokesman Daniel Velez.
“TSA continues to emphasize the importance of vaccines in the effort to help contain COVID-19. We continue to urge employees in regularly scheduled town hall meetings, shift briefs, and broadcast messages to the workforce to obtain their vaccination.”
Beachside destinations across Mexico, the southern US and the Caribbean are so far the top Thanksgiving and Christmas travel destinations this year, according to data released by Expedia.
“We’ve seen air bookings steadily rising since the beginning of this month which could be attributed to people planning their holiday trips,” a rep for the company said Friday.