Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is not doing enough to fix the flight crisis affecting thousands of Americans this holiday season, according to several former pilots and aviation experts who say the former mayor is ‘unqualified’ for his position.
Over the past week, thousands of holiday flights were canceled and hundreds of bags were lost, causing massive backlash towards airlines, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and Buttigieg, a rumored contender for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.
Bill McGee, an aviation journalist, told Fox News Digital that the DOT is not doing enough to provide necessary customer care to travelers who were stranded as a result of the crisis.
‘Secretary Buttigieg has had ample opportunity to use his authority to address unfair and deceptive practices by airlines, and he has chosen instead not to use that authority. It’s long past time for others to provide the consumer protections that the DOT will not,’ McGee told Fox News Digital.
Former Ohio Senator Nina Turner, a co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, even suggested that the flight crisis is a result of Buttigieg attempting to use his position as transportation secretary to pad his resume.
‘What’s happening with the railroads, airlines & the supply chain is a result of a small city mayor being made the Secretary of Transportation as a means to pad his resume for President,’ Turner wrote to Twitter. Buttigieg has not made any official announcements if he will run for president in 2024.
Due to severe winter storms sweeping the nation, thousands of flights across the country were canceled, with the majority being from Southwest Airlines.
According to Fox 11, of the more than 160 flight cancelations at Los Angeles International Airport over the past few days alone, 106 of the cancelations were from Southwest flights.
Sal Lagonia, an aviation attorney and pilot, said the amount of recent flight cancelations impacting thousands of American travelers is ‘inexcusable.’
‘Frankly they are inexcusable. Weather was only one of the many reasons initially. However, as the other carriers recovered relatively quickly, Southwest did not. Their lack of upgraded systems is not acceptable,’ he said in an exclusive statement.
While blasting Southwest for management failures, the pilot also placed blame for the air travel chaos on the DOT and Buttigieg, who said in September that the summer’s air travel woes were ‘gonna get better by the holidays.’
‘Once again Buttigieg was Missing in Action,’ Lagonia said. ‘Similar to other such examples like the unloaded ships in the Pacific, Buttigieg shows that he is either unable or unwilling to give his full effort in tackling these issues which are a key component to his department. These are complex issues that require full effort and competent leadership.’
‘My reaction is that it’s not all that big a surprise, except of course when it comes to Southwest. That mess represents the biggest airline computer meltdown I’ve ever seen. This issue sits solidly with Southwest. Not sure the Secretary can really do much to help at this point,’ said Rob Mark, a pilot and flight instructor who serves as CEO of CommAvia.
Despite Buttigieg facing major backlash from the public, Mark believes that the responsibility falls on Southwest Airlines and their inability to properly schedule and manage flights.
‘The big issue, I think, is not whether SWA replaces its software to prevent another meltdown. They must. The big issue is how the airline takes care of the hundreds of thousands of passengers they’ve inconvenienced.’
JP Tristiani, a former helicopter pilot, graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and longtime aviation specialist, said that despite Southwest having the right tools to avoid the situation, they ‘totally failed with the snow storm they faced along their routes. Lost tract of crews and a/c stranded ‘somewhere’… Other airlines, majors, might have better computers that may have mitigated their exposure to the snow.’
‘From pilots I know still in the game, the opinion of him is ‘not qualified,” Tristiani said of Buttigieg, highlighting the transportation secretary’s proposals for more control and penalties against airlines. ‘Government control outside the FAA, airline companies, unions will never, has never benefited air travelers or the airline route system, equipment, crew training, knowledge of scheduling, state of the art of such computers, etc.’
Buttigieg did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment, but released several statements over the past few days regarding the mass flight cancelations.
‘USDOT is investigating, and we are enforcing customer service standards,’ Buttigieg wrote of the investigation into Southwest in a Twitter post on Thursday.
Southwest Airlines also released several statements of apology following the flight catastrophes, pledging to address its failures, refund customers, and promising that scheduled flights will resume Friday.