Unfortunately, for us mere mortals, there’s little we can do beyond accepting flight delays and cancellations and adjusting our plans accordingly.
But if you happen to run the U.S. Department of Transportation, you have considerably more leverage. Specifically, you can use your authority to force airlines to meet consumer-protection standards which would include hiring additional staff to accommodate the post-pandemic uptick in air travel.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg held a virtual meeting with airline executives on Thursday to address the sharp increase in the number of flight delays and cancellations. The Washington Post reported that he asked them what steps they were taking to avoid a repeat of Memorial Day weekend when over 2,700 flights were cancelled.
NBC Nightly News played a clip of Buttigieg commenting outside the White House following his meeting with airline officials. “I let them know this is a moment when we are really counting on them to deliver reliably for the traveling public,” he said. “There is a lot of pent-up demand out there [for travel].”
NBC reported that air traffic in Florida has increased more than 100 percent over pre-pandemic levels. They noted an increase in the number of military and space flights had “further restricted airspace.”
Most airlines, according to NBC, are experiencing a shortage of pilots which is forcing them to “trim their schedules or park planes.” Much of the problem comes down to pilot fatigue.
Air travelers should be able to expect reliable service as demand returns to levels not seen since before the pandemic.
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) June 17, 2022
Thank you, @SecretaryPete. @SenBlumenthal and I have serious concerns about increased flight cancellations. Passengers shouldn’t be penalized for the airlines’ mismanagement and poor planning. https://t.co/hUzxdEVwNs
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) June 17, 2022
On Friday, Buttigieg was forced to drive from Washington, D.C., to New York City after his flight was canceled. The next day, in comments to The Associated Press, he said, “That is happening to a lot of people, 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.”
He told AP he’d pushed the airlines to “stress-test their summer schedules” to make sure they have sufficient staff to operate smoothly. He also asked the executives to hire additional customer-service workers.
Before the TSA takes enforcement action against the airlines, Buttigieg would like to see how they perform over the Fourth of July weekend and the busy summer travel season.
The Federal Aviation Administration falls under the umbrella of the TSA. A shortage of air traffic controllers in Florida has exacerbated delays at the state’s airports. However, NBC reported the FAA has added 30 air traffic controllers to the Jacksonville airport.
According to data group FlightAware, over 6,500 flights in the U.S. were canceled on Thursday and Friday.
NBC attributed this to bad weather in the northeast and in Florida. Especially hard hit were airports in North Carolina, New York and New Jersey.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.