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Tipsheet

Buttigieg Fails to Address One of the Main Reasons Air Travel Is Now a 'Nightmare'

Stefani Reynolds/Pool via AP

Americans looking forward to jetting off this holiday weekend better brace themselves for the “challenges” that likely await them, according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. 

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During an interview with the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, NBC News’s Lester Holt wondered if Independence day is going to be a “recipe for disaster given the issues with the system right now.”

“There are going to be challenges, but we’re watching it closely and we’re talking to the airlines every day about their responsibility to make sure that they can accommodate any issues that weather or other curveballs might throw at them,” Buttigieg replied. “A lot of people, including me, are expecting to get to loved ones over this holiday weekend, and we need a system that is resilient enough to get them there, plus good customer service when an issue does come up.”

The conversation then turned to the more than $50 billion in pandemic aid the airline industry received so employees wouldn't be laid off.

“So, the point of this taxpayer funding was to keep people in their jobs,” Buttigieg said. “And one of the best things about the Rescue Plan, for example, was the news that airline employees were told to tear up their furlough notices when it came through. But we also saw that a lot of people, including pilots, were nudged into early retirement by the airlines. That certainly is something that reduced the labor force that, right now, we’re really counting on. Often, we’re hearing the lack of a pilot ready to go cited as an issue or a problem that’s contributing to a delay or a cancellation.”

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Buttigieg, of course, failed to mention that pilots were “nudged into early retirement” or fired, in large part because of the vaccine mandate the Biden administration pushed on large private employers before it was blocked by the Supreme Court. 

To address the problems caused by staffing shortages, Buttigieg claimed last week the government has the authority to compel airlines to hire more workers. 

According to FlightAware, U.S. airlines have had to cancel more than 21,000 flights since Memorial Day weekend due to increased demand amid widespread staffing shortages. 

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