Is Pete Buttigieg Turning the Corner?
Pete Buttigieg appears to be learning lessons from past crises.
The Secretary of Transportation delivered a news conference on May 23 and gave the press evidence that he and his staff are ready for a huge number of successful and safe airline flights over the Memorial Day weekend.
This comes as critics pilloried Buttigieg last Christmas for being asleep at the switch when thousands of commercial flights were cancelled and travelers were stranded in a calamity that ruined their holiday.
Heavy Holiday Airline Traffic
On May 22, there were 2.6 million airline passengers – the biggest airport travel day since February of 2020. Buttigieg said this spring, there has been only a two percent cancellation rate at airports across the country and Memorial Day is expected to be crowded on airplanes but that very few flights are projected to be cancelled. That two percent rate is better than the ten-year average, the secretary said.
Airlines Will Be Held Accountable
Buttigieg claimed he has a two-fold approach toward DOT and airline collaboration. “There will be appropriate pressure when necessary. We’re working collaboratively with the airlines wherever we can to take steps that are going to help them reduce congestion and increase capacity. And then when things go wrong, we are using our tools to press airlines to continue improving customer service and continue improving performance,” he said.
Excuses and Explanations by Buttigieg
The secretary also explained that during the pandemic many airlines could have gone out of business had it not been for the efforts of his department and the Biden administration to fix the economy. Travelers now have the time, money, and wherewithal to take trips on airplanes.
Passengers Will Be Paid Back for Their Troubles
Plus, Buttigieg promised to have a recourse for customers who will have flight cancellations in the future. “We initiated a new rule for the first time in history that would require airlines to compensate passengers in a situation where the airline has caused a major delay or cancellation,” he explained.
Buttigieg is confident there are correct measures in place to avoid another airline cancellation crisis. Buttigieg said there has been a substantial number of refunds for ailing passengers frustrated with their flight troubles.
“I think over $60 million in refunds.” There are also DOT fines for the airlines possible, he said. “I always want to emphasize the point of the fine in not the fine. The point of the fine is to propel money back into passenger pockets. I think it would be accurate to say that there about a half a dozen investigations still pending along those lines.”
The cabinet secretary also transitioned his news conference to speak about electric vehicles. He is a big proponent of EVs and has been criticized for not accounting for their high cost and that many components of the cars are produced in China instead of America.
“I have visited facilities in Glendale, Kentucky and DeSoto, Kansas that are going to generate thousands of jobs, creating EV batteries with American workers on American soil, making good money. By the way, often six figure pay that you don’t even have to have a college degree to earn.”
It appears that Buttigieg is learning how to be a cabinet secretary by addressing what people care about and he has acknowledged why he has been taken to task in the media before. As a former small-town mayor, he was not prepared for a chemical spill from a train wreck in Ohio, and he endured many naysayers then.
But he has moved on and attempted to foresee problems before they happen and create solutions for contingencies. This is a sign of maturation by the secretary, and it could mean that he will be out in front of any potential crisis before he is knocked down in the press and by Congressional critics from the right.
Author Expertise and Experience
Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.