Strain on nation’s air travel system emerging

The strain of a 34-day partial government shutdown is weighing on the nation’s air-travel system, both the federal workers who make it go and the airlines that depend on them.

Air traffic controllers and airport security agents continued to work without pay — they will miss a second biweekly paycheck on Friday — but high absentee rates raise the threat of long airport lines, or worse.

Unions that represent air traffic controllers, flight attendants and pilots are growing concerned about safety with the shutdown well into its fifth week. Airline executives say they are worried that long airport lines could scare off passengers. The economic damage, while small, is starting to show up in their financial reports.

Federal workers say going without pay is grinding them down, and they’re not sure how much longer they can take it.

“The stress is getting to everyone,” said Al Zamborsky, a radar specialist at Reagan National Airport outside Washington.

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