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TSA vaccine mandate looms as busy holiday travel season kicks off

Nov. 19, 2021
3 min read
TSA vaccine mandate looms as busy holiday travel season kicks off
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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.

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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 image by A traveler passes through the TSA security checkpoint at Terminal A of Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) on May 20, 2021. (Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases