Buttigieg Faces Tough Questions from Senators on Southwest Airlines

Buttigieg Faces Tough Questions from Senators on Southwest Airlines

(UnitedHeadlines.com) – The 2022 holiday season marked one of the biggest logistical nightmares the United States has ever seen. Thousands of flights fell off the schedules due to bad weather conditions and a domino effect of cancellations, although Southwest Airlines suffered the brunt of the issue. Now, lawmakers are turning to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for more answers, and some are asking tough questions to all parties involved.

Southwest Debacle

Days after all the other major airlines were mostly back up and running, The New York Times shared how Southwest continued to cancel its flights by the thousands. The airline’s flight strategy contributed significantly to the continuing breakdown because each craft hopped all around the country instead of going back and forth between main hubs. As a result, one canceled trip could affect multiple flights in numerous regions — and each grounded plane was capable of setting off an equally devastating chain reaction of displaced vehicles and crew. Industry analyst Mike Arnot told The Times the only way to reset such a mess “is to cancel a huge [number] of flights.”

But lax regulations and inadequate oversight are equally to blame, say some lawmakers. They say overbooking remains a problem with airlines, and the Department of Transportation (DOT) is investigating the low-cost airline over the possibility that its booking practices compounded the crisis.

In the meantime, Southwest has taken steps to reimburse inconvenienced travelers, with over 96% — or 284,188 people who’ve submitted requests — receiving repayment for the money they lost due to the cancellations. The Dallas Morning News reported all travelers who suffered delays or cancellations also received $300 in frequent flyer points. In all, the company will have shelled out roughly $1.1 billion to make things right with its customers.

Buttigieg to Blame?

Some of Buttigieg’s fellow Democrats say the DOT should have acted preemptively to safeguard against this kind of breakdown, while their GOP peers feel the government’s intervention in such matters is a problem all its own. A Senate committee met on February 9 to grill Southwest, determine where exactly the blame lies, and devise strategies to avoid a recurrence of similar problems in the future.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who feels Buttigieg did nothing but further disrupt the company’s schedules, pointed out the Transportation Secretary was “[n]otably absent from [the] meeting,” according to The Hill.

The DOT maintains the agency has done all it can to investigate the issue and enforce consumer protections, but it welcomes whatever resources and support Congress is willing to offer.

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