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If you’re one of the travelers whose flights have been delayed or canceled in recent weeks, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg knows your pain, as his own flight scheduled for Friday was canceled.
He received an alert on his phone on Friday morning about the theft, after meeting virtually with the country’s airline CEOs about their chronic operational issues on Thursday evening.
“I thought it looked pretty on the nose,” Buttigieg told NPR. “It illustrates what is on the minds of millions of passengers right now.”
Buttigieg’s was one of about 1,400 US flights that were canceled on Friday, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. This is on top of more than 1,700 canceled flights on Thursday.
Airlines have struggled to meet a huge surge in demand for air travel this summer. Staff shortages, particularly among pilots, have left many airlines with little leeway when problems arise, especially bad weather.
But when meeting with the airline’s CEO, Buttigieg says he told them they needed to “first make sure their schedules reflect the realities of some of the staffing issues they’ve been having.” .
“These airlines have had a lot of public support to try to keep the system resilient,” Buttigieg told NPR, referring to the $54 billion in pandemic relief. “And now we’re relying on them to make sure their operations are reliable, and especially that if there’s a disruption or a delay…they call somebody and ask that customer service to help them out. “
Buttigieg said he pressed airline executives to detail the kinds of actions they were taking to ensure operations ran smoothly ahead of the busy July 4 holiday.
“I have received many assurances of the actions they are taking, and I know this is taken very seriously in terms of any action airlines can take,” Buttigieg said. “On the other hand, I’m in a car at the moment instead of on a plane, as we weren’t able to catch a flight as planned, so these disruptions continue to be a concern.”