TSA vaccine mandate looms as busy holiday travel season kicks off

Nov 19, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

As Americans prepare to take to the roads and skies as the holiday travel season kicks off, an ultimatum is looming at the TSA.

Most federal workers must be vaccinated by Nov. 22 under the executive order issued by the Biden Administration. Although the deadline for federal contractors — including most mainline airlines in the U.S. — was moved from Dec. 8 to Jan. 4, federal employees are required to adhere to the November deadline.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly aviation newsletter.

The deadline comes on the Monday of Thanksgiving week, typically the start of the busy holiday travel period that continues through the weekend following New Year’s Eve. The timing has raised concerns amongst holiday travelers.

Only 60% of TSA screeners were vaccinated as of last month, TSA administrator David Pekoske told CNN.

In the weeks since, the agency has held town halls and other information sessions with employees. Also in October, the TSA suggested that the 60% figure was actually an undercount and that some employees simply had not submitted their vaccine cards yet, saying that thousands were uploading their cards each week.

The TSA has about 50,000 screeners, the agency said on its website, and 269 had active COVID-19 infections as of Thursday. Over the course of the pandemic, 11,157 TSA workers have had COVID-19, and 32 have died.

The TSA declined to share the current percent of its employees that are vaccinated, but told TPG on Thursday that it does not expect any impact on holiday travel caused by the vaccine mandate or associated staffing shortages.

Related: American adds pay incentives to avoid holiday staffing woes

“While I can’t share data yet, the compliance rate is very high, and we do not anticipate any disruptions because of the vaccination requirements,” a TSA spokesperson said in a statement. “TSA is working diligently to implement our vaccine requirement, including by promoting vaccination and ensuring every TSA employee is uploading their attestation information. We have made good progress, and we are still collecting vaccination data.”

The spokesperson reiterated that although the agency does not anticipate disruptions or staffing shortages linked to the vaccine requirement, the agency expects to see a surge in travel demand over the Thanksgiving period, and suggests arriving early.

It was not immediately clear what would happen to TSA employees who fail to meet the deadline, including whether they would be immediately fired or suspended.

Featured photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.