How A Government Shutdown Will Impact Travel

by on September 30, 2013 · 22 comments

in Travel Industry

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Whether you agree with it or not, it looks like a government shutdown is becoming more and more of a possibility. If it happens there will be far-reaching effects, including thousands of government workers furloughed- many of whom who support the travel industry in one way or another. That’s because the government is involved in everything from security and air traffic control to access to national parks and more.

Since the 1970′s, the government has shutdown a total of 17 times. The last time the government shut down, in 1995, it lasted three weeks – the longest on record. Nearly 300,000 government employees were furloughed and almost half a million went without a paycheck until being reimbursed later after the resolution.

What will a government shutdown mean for travelers?

What will a government shutdown mean for travelers?

Luckily, agencies and departments that the US Treasury does not directly fund will remain operational (though there’s no telling if they’ll be at full capacity) and “essential” positions such as the FBI, TSA, border control and air traffic control will remain on duty, even if there is a shutdown. However, they might not be paid until the government reopens for business, and there’s no telling what the ramifications of that will be,but I wouldn’t expect TSA agents to be friendlier than normal! (Though to be fair, the TSA agents working Pre-Check in NYC and Miami recently have been more than friendly to me).

Just to confirm the situation and see what the TSA expects to happen in the case of a government shutdown, I Tweeted Ross Feinstein, the Press Secretary for the TSA @TSAMedia_RossF to ask him how a government shutdown would affect the Transportation Security Administration and here’s what he had to say:

Screen shot 2013-09-29 at 8.13.36 PMThe most interesting facts I got out of it from him were that, “the majority of our officers who screen passengers/luggage will remain on the job,” and when I asked if the TSA was anticipating longer wait times at airports for security screening in the case of a shutdown, he responded, “TBD, but since the majority of our front line staff is essential, I don’t think so.”

He also confirmed that in the case of a shutdown, employees would remain at work, though they would not be paid until Congress approved a new funding plan.

The bottom line is, this could be bad news not only for the economy and taxpayers, but also for travelers in terms of some inconveniences but not security. That said, there’s no telling how long this one will last or if there will be consequences we haven’t seen before. However, if you have some travel plans coming up, you should be paying attention to how this all unfolds.

And in terms of travel specifically, there are two different ways a shutdown will affect your plans.

Delays in Visa and Passport Processing

Technically passports and visas are financed by fees, so a shutdown shouldn’t affect processing times. However, back during the last government shutdown in the 1990′s, hundreds of thousands of passports simply weren’t processed until the government opened back up again for business. Passport offices that are located in government buildings that are closed due to the shutdown will obviously not be able to process any applications. Basically I would expect processing times to increase dramatically, so if you need a passport or visa, I’d apply ASAP.

Museum and National Park Closures

The people who keep our national parks open and safe, as well as those who work in national museums, are government employees, and while some might remain open in the case of a government shutdown, most government-run parks and museums will close their gates and doors to visitors while the crisis lasts, so grab your camping supplies and head out to the wilderness now if you want to get in one last outdoor adventure, or head into museums now if you want to check out some of the masters before a shutdown closes the museums.

So overall, hopefully travel won’t be affected too badly, but anything is possible.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Michael Rasmussen

    Just a few weeks until our international departure with a domestic connection. Could be interesting. First awards travel too. ;)

  • flyinace2000

    We move back to the USA from London next week. Could make the trip even more exciting! -_-

  • Haldami

    You can thank the tea party terrorists for this.

  • zgjones

    You’re welcome.

  • Ron

    Tea Party terrorists?? How about a President (and predominantly Democratic Congress, though many Republicans too) who spends money like a drunken sailor? Money we don’t have! Oh, I forgot, we can just print more … no problem.

  • Haldami

    I’m surprised to see the teabaggers are worried about spending. Convenient that it all started after the republicans lost the White House. Now they are trying to destroy a law that has been on the books for 3 years, passed by congress, survived a presidential election, and rules constitutional by the Supreme Court. Guess the constitution only matters when it works out for them.

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  • makemoneywitheb

    This could get ugly if it happens.

  • Ron

    The law did not survive a presidential election … the President did. Laws can be amended or retracted by procedure. In this country we have laws and rules, and not everything is accomplished via Presidential fiat … such as unilaterally deciding who gets exempted by the provisions of the new law and to whom it applies. The Constitution and the laws of government apply to everyone … even to those who believe they’re above the law.

  • Ron

    Relax. If this happens, it won’t be the first time … via Republicans AND Democrats in years past. Life has gone on each and every time.

  • makemoneywitheb

    I’m not concerned. It’s the people who are concerned that will freak out.

  • Haldami

    If the people wanted the law to be repealed, they would have elected someone who ran on that platform. The fact that the repeal had failed 43 times should be enough for most reasonable people to believe that it won’t work. Now they are trying to keep the government shut down until they get their ransom.

  • Amy

    Any idea if Global Entry offices will be open? I have my interview on Friday. Tried to call and no answer. Thanks!

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  • mp1007

    Back in 1995 I was a “victim” of the government shutdown and it was a nightmare to me…

    came back to Brazil to get married and renew my L1 VISA and when I went
    to Sao Paulo to the consulate I was informed that it was the first day
    of the shutdown without any perspective to be up and running again.

    mine and my wife´s B1/B2 visas were still valid and we had our honey
    moon in Jamaica leaving from the States, we decided to take the flight
    we had scheduled a couple of days later.

    When entering the US the
    immigration officer brought us to a separate room and started saying
    that we would come back in the same flight and that I was entering the
    country with the wrong visa and this and that…

    Only after about
    an hour of discussion telling him that I had a new and proper visa
    approved (I showed him the process) and that I did try to get it
    replaced in Sao Paulo and that I could have lied in the entry form to
    say I was a tourist and that we had our honey moon planned that he sort
    of understood that I was in that situation in good faith and not trying
    to trick the system.

    So, after a couple more hours he comes back
    saying that they caught an approval from a judge (not sure if this was
    true or not…!) to give us a 48 hour visa based on humanitarian grounds
    (because of the honey moon) so we could head to Austin, grab our stuff
    and head to Jamaica and from there back to Brazil, since we would not
    enter the country again without the new Visa.

    Advised by our
    immigration attourney, we postponed the trip until the end of the
    shutdown and went to Ciudad Juarez to get the Visa changed. There, the
    consulate officer simply said that we had to change our visas in our
    home country and waved us off. There we were again at the bridge that
    connects Ciudad Juarez and El Paso trying to explain the whole ordeal to
    an immigration officer… it was a hard time again…

    immigration attourney then said the guy at the consulate was wrong, that
    we could indeed get the visas changed there and that she had spoken
    with him and that we should go back to Ciudad Juarez and look for him.

    did and the guy was on vacation!!! LOL To make a story short, we left
    there with the new visas, but not after some drama because the new
    officer also wanted us to go back to Brazil to get the visas….

    Laughing matter today, it was a horror for us when it happened…

    Just hope that nobody goes through this, having done the right things and not trying to fool anybody…

  • amit

    Is wire transfer from India to USA still working during government shutdown?

  • travel eam

    Good piece. We updated Canadian travellers on the situation on our blog as well:

  • spicynujac

    ew, why?

  • flyinace2000

    Cause when work says they will pay for the move home, you don’t really turn them down. We were in London for 19 months.

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