Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg responded to critics on Thursday after a disastrous Christmas travel week, nationwide snowstorms and thousands of canceled flights, most eloquently. Noteworthy is Southwest Airlines from Texas.
Buttigieg reiterated that the U.S. Department of Transportation has made “substantial progress” in preparing for the promised winter travel season, despite what critics claim has been missteps by his agency.
Moderator Bret Baier Quote Comment Buttigieg September spoke to CBS comedian James Corden on how to make sure travel is better when Christmas rolls around:
“[T]His proof is that we had an epic storm hit the United States, and within days, almost all the airlines recovered,” Buttigieg replied in the “Special Report.”
“Virtually every airline recovered except Southwest. That’s right: they failed to invest in the IT systems they needed and made a host of other operational mistakes.”
Asked whether the DOT was aware of Southwest’s antiquated dispatch system ahead of the Christmas rush, the secretary replied that he does not operate the airline but does regulate it.
“So what we’re doing now is using the full power of the department to make sure customers are looked after – I made it clear Southwest Airlines Our department would ask them – which by the way, was not possible before the work we did this summer – they now need to pay lodging fees, ground fees, hotel fees to deal with these delays and cancellations are theirs responsibility. “
Buttigieg noted that Southwest CEO Bob Jordan is “quite new,” having only taken over in February 2022, but the airline should have taken corrective steps years before a new boss took over.
“What I know for sure – and this is important to anyone who’s looking at this – is that if your flight is cancelled, you’ve got to get your money back, and you’ve got to get it within seven days …and you pay your fare. I know a lot of passengers are still having problems.”
Beyer later pressed Buttigieg about some of the other situations the DOT has come under criticism for, including a supply chain crisis that culminated in the secretary’s paternity leave.
“That’s bullshit,” Buttigieg replied. “Let’s start with the supply chain crisis. I dealt with that before, during and after my time with kids.”
He added that while the media had predicted “Christmas would be canceled” due to lack of merchandise, among other reasons, the reality was that retailers were seeing record sales.
As for the looming railroad strike in late 2022, Buttigieg said he has been working aggressively on Capitol Hill and in his office to avert what would be a disaster for American business.
“I think the night before the provisional deal was made, I remember going to bed at 1 and waking up at 4 to check my phone [o’clock],” He said.
Finally, Beyer also asked Buttigieg about his recent retirement from the state he recently moved to.
Since the former South Bend, Ind., mayor moved to northern Michigan, Buttigieg has reportedly been asked about the possibility of running in 2024 to replace fellow Democrat Deborah Stabenow.
“I’m completely focused on doing this job, and I’m not planning to run for anything,” he said when asked if he would rule out running to replace Stabenow, who was first elected in 2000.