On Sunday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg revealed that the Department of Transportation has launched at least ten investigations into various airlines to determine the cause of widespread customer dissatisfaction.
As reported by Fox Business, Buttigieg made the comments during an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” saying that while some airlines had made improvements, the current standards are still “not to an acceptable level.”
“We have just concluded another ten investigations on airlines on these issues,” Buttigieg explained, “and have launched another ten or so that we’re going to pursue to make sure that the consumers and passengers are protected.”
Among other issues, there has been a significant rise in the number of flight cancellations and delays over the last few months, exacerbated by holiday weekends such as the 4th of July. There is also a shortage of airline pilots amid various strikes. When host Mike Emanuel noted that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is proposing a new law to raise the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 65 to 67, Buttigieg stated his opposition to such a policy.
“These retirement ages are there for a reason, and the reason is safety. I’m not going to be on board with anything that could compromise safety,” said Buttigieg. “Now, what’s clearly the case is we need to cultivate, train, and support a new generation of qualified pilots.”
Another crisis facing the airline industry is the shortage of air traffic controllers. On Thursday, United Airlines CEO Jon Roitman directly blamed the federal government for this shortage in a letter to employees, saying that “we estimate that over 50% of our delay minutes and 75% of our cancels in the past four months were because of FAA traffic management initiatives.”
“Those have been particularly acute in Newark and Florida,” Roitman continued. “These ATC challenges can not only disrupt the schedule, but they also cause us to burn crew time throughout the month.”
The FAA, however, rejected these claims, instead blaming the air traffic controller shortage on the weather.
“It is unfortunate to see United Airlines conflate weather-related Air Traffic Control measures with ATC staffing issues,” the FAA said in a statement, “which could deceptively imply that a majority of those situations are the result of FAA staffing.”