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Air traffic controllers encouraging travelers to contact lawmakers to end shutdown

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jan 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-15 18:02:18-05

AKRON, Ohio — Passengers at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport were greeted by a group of air traffic controllers who handed out pamphlets and encouraged people to contact lawmakers and call for an end to the partial government shutdown.

The 25-day shutdown is the longest in U.S. history with no end in site.

Thousands of air traffic controllers continue to show up for work, but are not receiving paychecks.

"Air traffic control is already a stressful job and now you're inducing more stress," said Nick Yochman, an air traffic controller from Youngstown. "It's hard coming into work everyday with the uncertainty of not knowing when you're gonna get paid."

The union representing air traffic controllers filed a lawsuit arguing the workers should be paid and their constitutional rights were being violated, but a federal judge denied the request on Tuesday afternoon.

Yochman also stressed that 3,000 aviation safety specialists were placed on furlough.

However, on Tuesday afternoon, federal officials announced about 2,200 of them would return to work by the end of the week without pay.

At Akron Canton Airport, about 100 TSA agents, air traffic controllers and customs and border protection agents are also reporting to work uncertain of when they will be paid.

Airport President and CEO Ren Camacho said there have not been any issues with federal workers calling off.

"We're very thankful. They continue to provide the customer service experience through Akron Canton Airport and have smiles on their faces. We're grateful for them," Camacho said.

Airport officials showed their gratitude to the federal workers by providing them with a lunch last Friday.

Camacho stressed the shutdown in not impacting safety and security, but he is concerned that staffing could become an issue if the shutdown drags on.

"That's probably the the biggest question. What if? What if the shutdown does continue to linger and the potential impacts to staff? Again, thankfully, no impacts to date."

Some passengers who landed in Akron said they noticed longer security lines at Atlanta's airport.

Others said they're starting to worry that the shutdown could impact safety at airports.

"I think it's terrible," said Emily Wallace from Oklahoma. "I think they need to figure something out quickly because it's going to be an unsafe situation sooner than later. Anybody that's not getting paid is going to be stressed out and they're not going to pay attention."