Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is warning that his department could take enforcement actions against airlines that fail to live up to consumer-protection standards. During a week that saw a high number of flight cancellations in the U.S., the out lawmaker met virtually with airline CEOs to discuss ways they could prevent further cancellations as more Americans plan summer trips.
The following day, Buttigieg’s own flight was canceled, forcing the Secretary to drive from Washington to New York.
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“That is happening to a lot of people,” he told the Associated Press over the weekend, “and that is exactly why we are paying close attention here to what can be done and how to make sure that the airlines are delivering.”
Buttigieg says that he is waiting to see how the airlines handle the summer travel season, particularly the July 4 holiday weekend, before taking any action.
More than 2,800 flights were canceled over Memorial Day weekend, and last week 3,100 flights were canceled, mainly due to weather. But COVID-era staffing shortages have also played a role in flight cancellations as more Americans return to the skies. Staff shortages at the Federal Aviation Administration, which is part of the Department of Transportation, have also contributed to flight delays.
Still, Buttigieg is putting pressure on airlines to make sure they can operate their planned summer flights with the staff they currently have.
“Now we’re going to see how those steps measure up,” Buttigieg said.
In March, Buttigieg was asked by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper whether his role in the Biden Administration was setting him up for another presidential run.
“Where my head is at is how do we spend the better part of a trillion dollars in infrastructure funding accountable, on time, on task, and on budget. It literally doesn’t leave any room for me to be thinking about politics.”
Cooper suggested that as Transportation Secretary, Buttigieg is able to travel around the country funding public works projects that a majority of Americans appreciate.
“Like every job, there’s a flashy side and then there’s a workhorse side,” Buttigieg said, explaining that for every hour he spends flashing big checks and making big announcements, he also spends an hour working on the nitty-gritty, like safety regulations.
“Like any other job, you will succeed if you keep your head down and do what needs to be done, but I’ll tell you, I love this job. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing in public service right now.”