Air travel debacle puts Biden Cabinet star in the hot seat - Liberty

Friday, November 10, 2023

Air travel debacle puts Biden Cabinet star in the hot seat


Under Pete Buttigieg, the Department of Transportation has taken a series of steps aimed at protecting air travelers, but critics have urged him to take a tougher stance on the country's airlines. I'm looking forward to Jiang Shipping

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg appeared on late-night television in September and said he was confident airlines would improve after a disastrous summer of flight delays and cancellations.

Buttigieg told moderator James Corden, "I think it will be better by the holidays."

His prediction needed to be revised.

Around Christmas, a winter storm threw Southwest Airlines into an operational meltdown, canceling thousands of flights and stranding passengers for days during the busy holiday season. The outage halted outbound flights across the country for about 90 minutes, creating a new wave of disruption at airports.

Buttigieg, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, became the first to come out as gay. His ministerial post was confirmed by the Senate.

Buttigieg, who turned 41 on Thursday, has stepped down as transportation secretary relatively smoothly in recent weeks. Traveling across the country he promoted a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and touted where the money would go with grateful local leaders. He's also been the White House's go-to messenger on topics beyond roads and bridges, jousting with Fox News and appearing on Sunday talk shows to promote President Biden's agenda.

But the recent aviation industry woes pose a daunting task for ministers whose previous managerial experience was at a much smaller stage. It's a consumer complaint about flight cancellations. They were asked to take more aggressive actions to punish their failures.

“Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation has been reluctant to hold airlines accountable,” said John Brayall, vice president for public policy at the Consumers Federation of America. “Secretary of State Buttigieg has been telling tough stories, especially over the past few months, and we have yet to see it translated into action.”

Buttigieg called the disruption in the Southwest Airlines debacle "unacceptable" and reminded airlines of their obligations to consumers, including prompt refunds for canceled flights and reimbursement of travel expenses.

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 16,700 flights in late December, stranded passengers, and tarnished the airline's image. Kyle Grillot

The outage that occurred when the system that sent safety alerts to the F.A.A. pilots went down came under Mr. Buttigieg's watchful eye. He has no permanent leader. Buttigieg quickly took responsibility for the mess, telling reporters:

Complaints about air travel predate Buttigieg's time as Secretary of Transportation, and he has a limited number of tools to improve the flying experience for Americans. Congress passed legislation in 1978 to deregulate the airline industry, and a merger left him with four airlines to dominate the domestic market.

In the case of the Southwest catastrophe, airlines struggled to recover from winter storms after systems scheduling crews were overwhelmed. and fly. As Secretary of Transportation, Buttigieg was able to pressure Southwest Airlines to do the right thing for its customers, but he was not involved in the airline's internal operational affairs.

Buttigieg's image relies heavily on his technocratic whims. A Harvard-educated former McKinsey & Co. consultant, he boasts of his efforts to improve the functioning of South His Bend local government, including using data in decision-making. I have been

Buttigieg is also a prime target for Republicans because of his Democratic predominance. he stopped flying. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said last week, "Pete Buttigieg couldn't plan a funeral for one car.

Buttigieg is expected to become Secretary of Transportation in early 2021. Demand for air travel rebounded from the initial sharp drop at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. His tenure coincided with a time when airlines were struggling with staffing problems and travelers suffered several accidents.

Last year, 20.4% of his scheduled flights were delayed and 2.3% were canceled, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Both figures are up from 2021 when he saw 16.1% of his flights delayed and 1.5% canceled. In the first three quarters of last year, the Department of Transportation received about 49,000 consumer complaints about air travel. That's a 27% increase for him from the same time the previous year, well above pre-pandemic levels.

In an interview, Buttigieg cited several steps his department has taken over the past year to protect air travelers. In September, airlines published an online dashboard showing the services they promised to offer travelers in case of a delay or cancellation. Government officials said its creation prompted airlines to improve their policies.

Buttigieg said, "In terms of what we've been doing and what we're doing, I stack our work in this area on anyone who undertakes this at the federal level. he said.

Buttigieg has resigned, Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh told reporters at the Capitol last month. Speculation is rife that Mr. Buttigieg will again run for president or the Senate. Haiyun Jiang

Under Buttigieg, the Department of Transportation has also fined airlines about $16 million for various violations, including about $12 million for problems related to customer refunds. Most of the fines were imposed on foreign airlines. Buttigieg said the penalties imposed last year are in the official record.

The ministry also declined to identify the airlines, saying it was investigating three U.S. airlines to schedule flights that didn't have enough staff to support them.

Buttigieg will strengthen ties with domestic airlines that have received tens of billions of dollars in federal aid to keep employees employed during the pandemic, even before the recent air travel woes. was

Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, said in a letter to Buttigieg in June that he knew there weren't enough people. I said I would accept. I wrote I would pay more per person.

State attorneys general have also called for increased oversight. The attorney general said the issue has permeated the administrations of both parties and is seeking legislation to give airlines the power to enforce consumer protection laws.

Rep. Lo Khanna, a California Democrat, said Buttigieg should impose harsh financial penalties on airlines in the same way the Obama administration cracked down on passengers stranded on the tarmac.

Sarah Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants Association (CWA), said the department Buttigieg took over was severely underfunded and had many problems. To his credit, he was in constant contact with industry leaders and took the initiative when problems arose, she said.

"People can see that he's involved and responsible for everything," Nelson said.