Pete Buttigieg Gave Airline CEOs A Tongue Lashing. One Airline Took Its Revenge

Mayor Pete – widely talked about as the Democrats’ “Plan B” if Joe Biden doesn’t seek re-election in 2024 due to age – gave airline CEOs a public ‘talking to’ over their reliability. Complaining about airlines always polls well.

Buttigieg said he is pushing the airlines to stress-test their summer schedules to ensure they can operate all their planned flights with the employees they have, and to add customer-service workers. That could put pressure on airlines to make additional cuts in their summer schedules.

…During Thursday’s virtual meeting, airline executives described steps they are taking to avoid a repeat of the Memorial Day weekend, when about 2,800 flights were canceled. “Now we’re going to see how those steps measure up,” Buttigieg said.

He was doing his best Hans Blix impersonation sending U.S. carriers a sternly worded message.

The very next day one of these airlines cancelled his flght and he “wound up driving from Washington to New York.”

Perhaps he was driving distance between himself and President Biden by choosing to fly between New York and DC. But the truth is that while Buttigieg is scolding airlines over their operational performance he is partly responsible for the problem, and isn’t actually doing things within his power to help fix it.

  • Buttigieg knew or should have known airlines had already shed staff even as he championed the third round of pandemic airline subsidies on the basis of being ready to fly when passengers were ready to return. Either he was dishonest (he had to help sell administration policy) or he got rolled (he didn’t know what he was talking about). Either way reflects poorly on him.

  • He could push to repeal the 1500 hour rule to increase the supply of pilots. The rule makes pilots scarce, is a subsidy to pilots unions, but doesn’t enhance safety – which is why Europe didn’t follow.

  • DC – New York flights often face delays due to congested air space but Buttigieg doesn’t support spinning off air traffic control into a separate organization like in Canada and much of Europe. That allows for better capital investment and innovation as well as safety (a best practice is separating out the regulator from the people being regulated, the FAA could focus on safety regulation rather than mere self-regulation).

  • Of course Buttigieg even pledged fealty to the Jones Act which drives up energy and other prices, and keeps people poorer in Puerto Rico and Hawaii, so this shouldn’t surprise.

Scott Kirby, whose messaging is managed by former Obama spokesman Josh Earnest, plays the political game. Not only has United gone woke they backed the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for businesses and environmental goals. We can be certain that Buttigieg wasn’t flying United when his flight was cancelled – not because Buttigieg would have received special treatment (hopefully United learned its lesson after losing a CEO to the Bridgegate corruption scandal) but because United’s flight to New York would have put the Transportation Secretary in.. New Jersey.

Buttigieg scolds the U.S. airlines but he could have done – and could still do – things that would help improve operational reliability. He’d rather jawbone though than do the hard work – even if it means feeling the consequences of cancellations himself.

(HT: @crucker)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The homophobic variations of his surname are hilarious. One is more clever than the last. Nothing bolsters an argument like an ad hominem attack.

  2. He should have taken the very frequent train instead; of course I don’t know the particulars of his travel.

  3. agree with @Christian. This usefulness of this blog is diluted by the clickbait columns. Seriously Gary read the comments- is this really your goal here?

  4. Perhaps the most ineffective and utterly useless Secretary of Transportation in history, his impotent yelping elicits little more than a patronizing chuckle from the adults in any room…

  5. I have too much respect for Gary and his previous good work to continue reading this trash. This space has become low on substantive information and high on bumper sticker ignorance and prejudices. Thank you for your past successes, Gary. I hope you can return to it one day.

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