HomeTravelAir travel system 'very brittle,' says Transportation Secretary Buttigieg

Air travel system ‘very brittle,’ says Transportation Secretary Buttigieg

(CNN) — Air visitors disruptions have plagued summer time vacationers, and this previous weekend was no exception.

Friday was the worst day for cancellations since mid-June, with 1,613 US flights canceled, in keeping with knowledge from flight monitoring web site FlightAware. And cancellations stored stacking up over the weekend.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg shouldn’t be pleased with the continued air travel chaos and is asking on vacationers to share their experiences.

While Buttigieg acknowledged that extreme climate this weekend disrupted air travel, “it shouldn’t have created the kind of ripple effects through the system that it did.

“That is one thing that to me is a sign that we nonetheless haven’t seen the enhancements that we’d like, that the system could be very brittle,” Buttigieg said Wednesday on CNN’s New Day.

He said the “human issue” is the biggest contributor to snarled air traffic.

“Not having sufficient crew, particularly pilots, to do the job. And airways, in fact, have an obligation to service the tickets that they promote,” Buttigieg mentioned.

Buttigieg met with airlines before July 4, calling for more realistic schedules, more pilot training and more responsive customer service. He said the meeting also addressed how the Federal Aviation Administration could help ease disruptions.
The Department of Transportation last week proposed a rule that would expand protections for travelers seeking refunds, and the Secretary invited the public to weigh in on the rule and to file complaints when airways aren’t responsive.
The proposed rule would more clearly define cases where flights are significantly changed or canceled to provide a clearer path to refunds in addition to creating more pandemic-related consumer protection.

‘A good start’

The posting of the proposed rule on Regulations.gov had more than 400 comments on Wednesday morning.

One commenter, Natalia Villegas, agreed that more consumer protections are needed.

“The present ruling of when shoppers are entitled to compensation could be very obscure and makes it nearly unattainable for the patron to see any type of compensation,” Villegas wrote, noting a year-long struggle to receive a flight refund.

Another commenter said it was “a great begin” but that it “does not go far sufficient.” That commenter, Carol Poindexter, would like to see monetary compensation for delayed flights.

Buttigieg told CNN that his own biggest frustration is with cancellations, noting that his own flight was canceled on Friday.

Buttigieg acknowledged the public’s frustration with airlines that have received federal bailouts during the pandemic.

“I believe loads of passengers do not perceive how greater than $50 billion goes to maintaining these companies in enterprise, after which when demand comes again … they are not ready to satisfy or service that demand.”

He said that while hiring has come back in most areas, airlines are still short on pilots, due in part to early retirements. Recent pay increases instituted by some regional carriers should help recruit and retain more pilots, he said.

But the pilot shortage is likely to take some time to remedy, one analyst recently told CNN.

“A whole lot of pilots retired. It’s not simple to exchange them,” said Jim Corridore, senior insights manager for research firm Similarweb. “It’s an extended course of, it is nonetheless going to be a yr or so to have the airways have a full schedule that this degree of demand will dictate.”

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