Bumped Buttigieg Threatens Airlines

The airline industry and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had a rough week. One day after he met with industry leaders over concerns about increasing flight cancellations and disruptions, the secretary’s flight was canceled and he was forced to drive to New York from Washington.

In hindsight, that may not have been the smartest flight to ground.

In the Thursday virtual meeting, industry executives laid out measures to avoid the travel fiasco that Americans endured over Memorial Day weekend. Over 2,800 flights were canceled and many thousands had their summer holiday kickoff ruined by being stranded in airports.

Ironically, data tracking service FlightAware says a whopping 1,700 flights were canceled Thursday — mostly due to eastern storms. The groundings rolled over into Friday with over 1,250 cancellations. One of those was Secretary Buttigieg’s.

The cabinet member said Saturday that the federal government may take action against airlines that do not follow consumer protection protocols. He said he is pushing airlines to stress test their schedules to ensure they can meet their obligations with the employees they have.

Experts say this could force airlines to cut back on summer flight schedules to lower the number of cancellations.

He followed with telling the industry that the White House will closely watch travel over the July 4 holiday and throughout the summer.

Air travel is back in full force, and the record for the highest one-day number of passengers since the pandemic’s onset would have been shattered Friday without the weather-related groundings.

Meanwhile, airlines continue to struggle with staffing shortages that extend from the service desk and ground crews to cockpits. Many workers, including pilots, took advantage of attractive offers to retire as the industry tried to lower overhead during the height of the pandemic.

Staffing issues are hardly limited to airlines. One of Secretary Buttigieg’s own departments, the Federal Aviation Administration, continues to struggle to fill positions, and this has also contributed to flight delays.

It’s interesting to see how quickly results come when a government official is subjected to the same trials and tribulations as the average American. But if Buttigieg can make the airlines run on time, that will mark a major accomplishment.