A number of legislators have set their sights on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in the wake of the massive backlog and melton of Southwest Airlines which causes multiple thousand of passengers to not have an available flight, making the claim that the entire ordeal could have easily been avoided entirely.
In the wake of announcing plans to finally get back to normal operations starting on Friday, the company canceled just about two-thirds of its total flights throughout the busy Christmas travel period, even after the expected severe winter weather conditions that swept across the United States had finally subsided and other carriers had stopped canceling insane numbers of flights.
The company’s executives issued a promise that their company will fully reimburse the passengers whose flights ended up being canceled, along with everyone that was forced to stay in hotels, buy tickets with another airline, or rent cars. Buttigieg expressed that the “level of disruption” that the customers went through over the past week was entirely “unacceptable” in a statement sent out to Southwest CEO Bob Jordan and stated that his agency would utilize “the fullest extent of its investigative and enforcement powers” to make sure that the customers end up reimbursed.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sounded the call for the Transportation Department to hold Southwest CEO Bob Jordan “accountable for his greed and incompetence.” It was also remarked by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) that he joined up with Sanders “nearly six months ago” in calling for Buttigieg to create penalties and fines for airlines that cancel their flights. “Why were these recommendations not followed?” posited the legislator. “This mess with Southwest could have been avoided.”
Throughout the time period, Southwest reportedly delayed and then canceled a total of 57% of its scheduled flights on Thursday even as many other companies, such as United Airlines and American Airlines, were only forced to cancel roughly 1% of their flights, as highlighted in data released from FlightAware. These elevated cancellation rates across major carriers stayed roughly the same for Friday and Saturday.
The letter sent this past June from Sanders, which noted that the airline industry waw issued $54 billion in relief during the lockdown-induced recession, pushed Buttigieg to “promptly refund passengers for flights that have been delayed over an hour,” as well as impose fines on airlines for “flights that are delayed more than two hours” and for “scheduling flights that they are unable to properly staff.”
“Taxpayers bailed out the airline industry during their time of need,” expressed Sanders. “It is the responsibility of the airline industry and the Department of Transportation to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the flying public and crew members are able to get to their destinations on time and without delay.”
As an ally of Sanders and former Ohio state lawmaker, Nina Turner also called for Buttigieg to be held accountable for the meltdown that happened at Southwest. “This is incompetence. This is what placing unqualified people in positions of power to do the bidding of corporations will get you,” she concluded. “There is a direct line from Secretary Buttigieg to the Southwest Airlines debacle and we shouldn’t pretend there isn’t.”