Will a shutdown affect my flight? What to know about air travel if Congress doesn't act.

With a government shutdown all but certain at this point, you may be wondering what it means for your upcoming travel plans.

The good news is, it probably won’t have an immediate overwhelming effect on your ability to fly. That doesn’t mean a shutdown is cost-free for the travel sector though. Longer term impacts could actually result in more headaches down the road than a lot of canceled flights over a few days.

So here’s what you need to know about who stops coming to work in the aviation world when the government shuts down, and what it means for your upcoming flights.

Will my flight be affected by the government shutdown?

Probably not.

Air traffic controllers are considered essential workers even during a government shutdown, so they’ll continue working, even though they won’t be getting paid. Past experience tells us that the controllers have a limited amount of patience for such a situation, however.

During the 2019 shutdown, air traffic controllers started calling out sick at much higher rates after about two weeks, which actually moved the needle on getting Congress to act on addressing the funding impasse.

Will airport security be affected by a government shutdown?

Transportation Security Administration agents, like air traffic controllers, are considered essential and will continue working during a government shutdown, so TSA screenings should proceed as normal.

Will international travel be affected by a government shutdown?

Customs and Border Protection officials, who process travelers entering the U.S., are considered essential and will continue working during a shutdown. Similarly, visa applications will continue to be reviewed for foreign visitors.

Will passports be affected by a government shutdown?

Not necessarily. Passport and visa processing, and other consular operations at the State Department, are funded by applicant fees, not government appropriations. That means they'll continue as normal so long as people keep paying the fees.

How will air travel be affected by a government shutdown?

Although the day-to-day operations of most airlines and airports will not be directly affected by the shutdown, there are still pain points for the industry.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press conference on Wednesday that air traffic controller hiring and training would be put on pause, which would impact the DOT’s efforts to address a shortfall in staffing.

“I want to emphasize that the complexity of the hiring and training process means even a shutdown lasting a few days could mean we will not hit our staffing and hiring targets next year,” he said.

In previous shutdowns, some aviation safety inspectors also stopped working.

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In addition to the broader government shutdown, the Federal Aviation Administration’s current funding runs out on Sept. 30, separately from the overall government funding. Although the agency’s essential employees will continue working even if that lapse occurs, getting the separate authorization bill passed will still need to happen and presents an additional roadblock to the agency’s ability to continue functioning.

Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Will a government shutdown affect flights?