As the government shutdown continues, Atlanta officials are worried for the upcoming Super Bowl LIII on February 3.
Their area of concern surrounds air traffic control at the city’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the largest airport in the United States, and general security for the event. Flight controllers had scheduled meetings in order to plan for the influx of traffic that will be coming into the area for the big event. However, once President Donald Trump called for a partial government shutdown, the meetings abruptly stopped.
“When we work on something as big as the Super Bowl — the biggest spectator event in the country — it takes us a lot of time to plan on extra airplanes and traffic,” Dan McCabe, a National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative, told NBC. “We’re going to keep the event safe, but we want it to be an enjoyable event for everybody. It’s frustrating that I know it won’t be as good as it could be.“
The airport is already facing issues amidst the shutdown. Some travelers saying they had to wait in security lines for over three hours due to a shortage in TSA agents who as of now are working with no pay.
“Obviously, we are in uncharted territory with the shutdown that’s gone on this long,” commented Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, “and we are preparing as best we can from our vantage point.”
Regularly, the airport handles crowds of 60,000 to 80,000 to screen, and it is projected to rise to 110,000 for the day after the Super Bowl as what officials are calling “Max Exodus Monday”. A heavy spike in passengers and responsibility for people who are currently working for free.
Aside from airport traffic and security, general security for the event is chancy. Federal employees who are assigned to work the event will be working without pay as well. The Department of Homeland Security has always worked with the NFL, the FBI, and law enforcement to keep the event safe from any threats.
Many different government personnel must be involved including the Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. All of these agencies are being affected by the shutdown.
“Morale is as low as I’ve seen it in 13 years with the FAA,” McCabe said. “It’s absolutely terrible. Everybody in that building looks like they lost their best friend… It’s already a stressful enough job.”
With the government’s grand re-opening nowhere in sight, Atlanta can only hope that the annual event runs as smoothly as possible.