As thousands remain stuck at airports, Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary, is under pressure from influential political leaders.
Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 2,500 flights Wednesday. This represents 62% of scheduled flights. The airline plans to cancel approximately two-thirds of the flights in the days ahead. Democrat and GOP elected officials as well as political activists demanded that the Department of Transportation hold Southwest Airlines responsible so customers get full refunds.
“Southwest’s flight delays and cancellations are unacceptable,” Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. tweeted Wednesday. “This company received a $7 billion taxpayer bailout and will be paying out $428 million to their wealthy shareholders.”
Sanders said that the Department of Transportation must hold Southwest’s CEO responsible for his greedy and incompetence.
In September, Buttigieg stated on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” that airline travel would “get better by the holidays.” Nina Turner, national co-chair for Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, blamed Buttigieg’s excessive ambitions for higher office.
She tweeted Tuesday, “What’s going on with the railroads and airlines & the supply chains is a result a small-city mayor being made Secretary of Transportation to fill his resume for President.” “Secretary Buttigieg shows the best example of failure up.”
Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), released Tuesday a statement in which she declared that federal rules must be updated in order to prevent future disasters.
Cantwell stated that the Committee would investigate the causes and impact on consumers. “Many airlines fail in their communication with customers during flight cancellations. Consumers should have strong protections, including an updated consumer reimbursement rule.
Republican leaders have been complaining for more than a decade that Buttigieg doesn’t take his job seriously in the midst of a series crisis facing America. Buttigieg was in Europe on vacation while railroad unions tried to reach a settlement in September to avoid a potentially devastating strike. The country was facing supply chain shortages and the secretary was on paternity leaves with his wife and their two children for several months.
Nancy Mace (Republican from South Carolina) said that she almost couldn’t see her children at Christmas due to flight delays. She also criticised the Department of Transportation over its slow response.
“It took four day and thousands and many thousands of cancellations for DOT finally to speak up; same as it took for Southwest’s CEO to finally speak out,” Mace stated Wednesday on Fox & Friends. “I hope that the government will become more efficient and effective when they are looking at these issues and intervening.”
Rep. Andy Biggs (Republican from Arizona) noted that Buttigieg had taken at least 18 flights with taxpayer-funded private aircrafts since he took office.
Biggs tweeted Wednesday, “If @USDOT wants to address Southwest’s recent collapse, it should ban its leader @SecretaryPete flying private.” “Why didn’t he know about these challenges before? “Late to the game, out of touch.”
Buttigieg and the House Judiciary GOP had a brief exchange on Twitter. The House Judiciary GOP tweeted Tuesday: “Where’s @SecretaryPete?” #SouthwestAirlines.”
“Good morning! “Good morning! “We’ll continue getting results for passengers using the agency’s authority & resources.” Please be specific in your requests for policies to increase those resources. I would welcome the conversation.
Members of his party warned Buttigieg about the concerns in the airline industry prior to Southwest’s mass cancellations. Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) filed comments in November to the Department of Transportation about the urgency of the Department of Transportation’s process to approve a rule that would ensure cancellations are properly refunded and accommodations are provided.
Sens. Sens. Letitia James, the Democratic New York Attorney General, also wrote a letter to Buttigieg on the subject in August.