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A panoramic view of McGhee Tyson Airport serving Knoxville, Tennessee
Joseph Creamer | Adobe Stock

How a Government Shutdown Would Impact Travel

As the U.S. government remains unable to agree on a funding bill, a government shutdown will likely begin on October 1 at 12:01 a.m. unless a deal is reached by September 30. The shutdown would last for an unknown amount of time until funding can be passed.

The last federal government shutdown began in late 2018 and lasted for 34 days before ending in early 2019. During this time, a significant impact on travel was seen. 

Here’s what travelers should be prepared for if the government shuts down again.

Air Travel

Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts on October 23, 2012. Logan Airport is the largest airport in New England.
leekris | Adobe Stock

Air Traffic Controllers and TSA agents are considered “essential” government employees and will still be required to work during a shutdown. However, these essential workers will not be getting paid until the shutdown ends—during the last shutdown, many employees called out of work (some to work other jobs to make ends meet). This resulted in air travel issues, including a ground stop at New York’s LaGuardia Airport after 10 air traffic controllers called out for the day.

At one point during the last shutdown, 10 percent of TSA agents nationwide didn’t show up to work, leading to long security lines at many airports.

The shutdown could have lingering effects on the air travel industry long after it ends, as the hiring and training of air traffic controllers would be halted during the shutdown. 

National Parks

National Parks will likely be officially closed during a government shutdown. However, gates may remain open at some parks so travelers can enter at their own risk. Park rangers will probably not be available to help if needed, and all services inside parks, including restrooms and visitor centers, will be locked and inaccessible. 

According to the National Parks Conservation Association, about a third of national parks closed completely during the last shutdown. Many parks that stayed open reported vandalism, overflowing trashcans and restrooms, and damage due to unsupervised visitors. 

Does Travel Insurance Cover a Government Shutdown?

Airport lock down, Flights cancelled
structuresxx | Adobe Stock

If you’re dreading long airport lines and want to cancel your trip, you’ll need to have purchased a Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance policy for it to be covered due to a government shutdown. 

According to travel insurance site Squaremouth, even Travel Delay coverage won’t apply during a government shutdown, explaining, “The most common covered reason under Travel Delay is a delay of a common carrier due to inclement weather or a mechanical breakdown. Other covered reasons include being involved in a traffic accident on the way to the airport, lost or stolen passports or travel documents, or an injury or sickness that causes you to be late. However, delays in line for a security checkpoint are not covered.” This also means that if you encounter an unexpectedly long security line due to the shutdown and miss your flight, you won’t be able to get compensation. 

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