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Atlanta airport says ready for Super Bowl crush despite shutdown

(Reuters) - Atlanta airport will be ready to field the tens of thousands of additional visitors expected for next month’s Super Bowl despite the ongoing U.S. government shutdown, which has left critical airport personnel unpaid, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

Passengers look for their luggage, after a paralyzing power outage, at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Christopher Aluka Berry

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), already the world’s busiest, expects to see an additional 125,000 passengers ahead of the Feb. 3 game and is bringing in reinforcements to meet the additional numbers, said Elise Durham, the airport’s director of communications.

More than 1,800 volunteers will help passengers navigate the airport while additional customer engagement agents will be on hand to assist people entering and exiting the city, she added.

Durham said the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the federal agency responsible for airport security screening, had committed additional resources for the Super Bowl, before the government shutdown.

“That commitment still stands and we expect to have additional TSA officers to support the increased operations,” Durham said.

“We also will have additional contract security on hand during the 10-day operational period.”

She said the airport typically handles about 270,000 passengers a day.

“(That) equates to about four times the Mercedes Benz Stadium at capacity -- every day,” she said, referring to the venue where the NFL’s championship game will be held.

The partial U.S. government shutdown, which is the result of a political dispute over funding for a wall along the U.S. southern border, entered its 25th day on Tuesday.

The shutdown has led 800,000 federal workers, including TSA agents and air traffic controllers, to go without pay.

Atlanta air traffic controller Dan McCabe on Tuesday said the shutdown has forced the cancellation of meetings aimed at planning for the up to 1,500 extra flights per day.

“It’s like being told you’re playing in the Super Bowl but you can’t look at any game film, you can do limited game planning and your playbook is something that you’re going to have to put together at the last second,” he told Reuters.

“We’re going to keep it safe but in order to keep things safe sometimes efficiency has to suffer,” he said.

“I’m not saying that’s going to happen but the potential for delay is real.”

Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Amlan Chakraborty