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Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg: Airlines Will be Held Accountable for Any Memorial Day Chaos

Buttigieg: Airlines Will be Held Accountable for Any Memorial Day Chaos

Pete Buttigieg

The out transportation secretary sees this weekend as a stress test.


As Memorial Day approaches, and the summer holiday season along with it, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said the agency is prepared to do what it takes to ensure flights run smoothly.

"Cancellations and delay rates were at unacceptable proportions last year. And it's important that that not happen again," Buttigieg said at a press conference on Tuesday, Travel Weekly reports.

The outlet notes that there’s been a cancellation rate of 1.4 percent so far this year — which is a lower than the average of the last decade. Last year’s was 2.4 percent.

The out secretary said that this Memorial Day weekend will test how well improvements to the system have been.

Travel this weekend could be the busiest for a Memorial Day weekend since the start of the pandemic, ABC News notes. United Airlines is expecting to fly almost 3 million customers, and Delta is expecting similar numbers.

"We know for sure that there is going to be a very high level of demand, a lot of traffic and a lot of pressure on the system," Buttigieg told the outlet. “If you look at the optimal numbers, the numbers we like to be at, it is higher than where we are right now. That's why we're doing so much hiring, and it's why we're pushing to make sure that we get a budget as these negotiations go on [between the White House and Congress] that allow us to continue to pick up the pace on that hiring.”

He added that the DOT is ready to apply pressure to airlines if there are serious issues, but is looking to work with the companies to make flying efficient and easy.

“Collaborative efforts include steps to reduce airspace congestion and increase system capacity. Steps DOT is taking to pressure airlines include its Fly Right dashboard, which alerts flyers about the respective reimbursement guarantees that airlines have made in the case of cancellations and delay,” Travel Weekly writes.

Buttigieg said that the DOT is still forcing airlines to recognize refund requirements over cancellations and delays. The airline LATAM, a South American company, was fined $1 million for not paying refunds on time.

Other investigations into airlines are ongoing.

Staffing issues resulted in 8 percent of flight cancellations between April 2022 and February 2023, the DOT secretary said. Problems with the carriers caused about 33 percent of them, and weather problems forced the others.

Buttigieg explained that his agency has pushed for airline companies to be realistic in scheduling their flights.

"There's always a question whether airlines are properly aligning their schedules that they're promising with their resources and staffing that they bring to the table, including enough of a buffer to deal with situations that may come up," he told ABC News. "Look, there's always weather, and you have to be ready to absorb those issues and respond and get back to normal as quickly as possible."

Buttigieg said, “DOT is doing its part and airlines need to do theirs as well.”

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