As flight woes mount, Buttigieg urges airlines to be sure they can deliver the schedules they promise

Jun 17, 2022

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg wants airlines to do better.

After multiple high-profile operational meltdowns in recent months, particularly over Memorial Day weekend, Buttigieg called a meeting of airline CEOs on Thursday. The goal of the meeting was to avoid a repeat over the Fourth of July and throughout the summer. All mainline and regional airlines were represented at the virtual meeting.

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During the meeting, Buttigieg focused on whether airlines were capable of operating their planned schedules, a source familiar with the gathering, which was described as “productive and collaborative,” told TPG. That’s been an issue at a number of airlines — including Delta Air LinesAlaska Airlines and JetBlue, which have proactively cut schedules due to staffing issues. Just this week, Southwest Airlines‘ pilot union took to Twitter to publicly accuse the airline of “selling more than 4,000 flights a day in June when you were only staffed for 3,800.”

Attendees also discussed customer service issues, the source said. For months, passengers on U.S. carriers have faced significant issues during irregular operations, including long waits for in-person or phone-based help and few available flight options for rebooking.

A key complaint of the airline industry has been staffing issues at Federal Aviation Administration-run air traffic control facilities; this issue was highlighted in a letter Airlines for America — the industry’s lobbying group — sent last week to two Democratic senators. At the meeting, Buttigieg “recommitted” the FAA to partner with airlines, the source said. Airlines and the FAA held a meeting last month to discuss issues surrounding an air traffic control facility in Florida.

Related: Buttigieg calls meeting of airline CEOs as operational issues persist

Airlines for America CEO Nicholas Calio thanked Buttigieg for the meeting and emphasized how the industry prioritizes safety.

“We appreciated the opportunity to meet with Department of Transportation Secretary Buttigieg to discuss our shared commitment to prioritizing the safety and security of all travelers as they reunite with friends, family and colleagues this summer,” Calio said in a statement. “U.S. airlines always strive to provide a safe and seamless journey, and recognize the importance of continued partnership between our industry and the federal government to ensure aviation remains the safest mode of transportation in the world.”

Featured photo by Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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