A day after US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg met with airline executives to question them about widespread flight disruptions, his private flight was canceled and he had to travel overland from Washington, D.C., to New York.
“This happens to a lot of people and that’s why we pay so much attention to what can be done and how to make sure that airlines deliver what they promise,” Buttigieg told The Associated Press in an interview on Saturday.
Buttigieg said he’s pushing airlines to test their summer itineraries to make sure they can fly all of their planned flights with their staff and adding customer service workers. This will put pressure on airlines to make further cuts to their summer itineraries.
Buttigieg said his department will take enforcement action against airlines that violate consumer protection rules. But he said he first wanted to see if there were any major disruptions to flights over the Fourth of July weekend and the rest of the summer.
Coercive actions can result in fines, although they are usually in small amounts. Air Canada agreed to pay a $2 million fine last year for slowing refunds.
During Thursday’s virtual meeting, airline executives outlined the steps they were taking to prevent a repeat of the Memorial Day weekend, when about 2,800 flights were canceled.
“Now we will see how these measures are fulfilled,” Buttigieg stressed.
Meanwhile, travel is back. On Friday, more than 2.4 million people passed through security checkpoints at US airports, a number about 12,500 less than the pandemic-era limit exceeded, recorded on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.
The record certainly could have been broken had airlines not canceled 1,400 flights, many of them due to thunderstorms in parts of the US East Coast. The day before, airlines canceled more than 1,700 flights, according to tracking service FlightAware.
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