Holiday travelers left stranded at airports across the country may want to consider assigning a share of the blame to the federal government.
Cancellations of flights have left thousands of travelers stranded at airports.
On Monday, over 3,800 flights in the U.S., including flights into or out of the country, were canceled and more than 7,400 delayed, according to The New York Times.
One airline, Southwest, canceled more than 2,800 — or 70 percent — of its flights, the Times reported.
It was a logistics disaster that dominated headlines over the Christmas weekend, but it didn’t come from out of the blue. The Biden administration and the federal government have had plenty of warnings about the problems plaguing the U.S. air industry.
Months before the holiday travel nightmare, a bipartisan group of attorneys generals questioned congressional leadership on how the federal government could improve air travel nationally.
In an August letter, the prosecutors outlined specific, actionable reforms that would give more power to the states to protect the traveling public.
The letter also contained an implicit indictment of the Biden administration’s Department of Transportation, led by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The state, territorial and District of Columbia officials indicated that the DOT had failed to provide recourse to the ever-increasing volume of consumer complaints against airlines — which the states had referred to the agency.
“As you are aware, federal law places the central responsibility for addressing violations of airline consumer protection with the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT),” stated the letter, which was addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Accordingly, our offices have relayed the complaints we have received to the US DOT. Unfortunately, the agency has thus far failed to respond and to provide appropriate recourse in those cases. Americans are justifiably frustrated that federal government agencies charged with overseeing airline consumer protection are unable or unwilling to hold the airline industry accountable and to swiftly investigate complaints submitted to the US DOT …
“For airline consumers to be properly protected, we urge Congress to take meaningful action and pass legislation that would authorize state attorneys general to enforce our state and federal consumer protection laws governing the airline industry,” the letter stated.
“Furthermore, we encourage Congress to consider shifting the authority for federal investigations of patron complaints concerning airlines from the US DOT to an agency more primarily focused on consumer protection, such as the U.S. Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission.”
In response to the holiday chaos, Buttigieg has pledged to hold Southwest Airlines accountable for potential violations of federal transportation rules.
Southwest Airlines needs to do everything it takes to get stranded passengers to their destinations – and cover their expenses (like meals, hotel, ground transport) in the meantime. We’ll continue to hold them accountable with all tools available to USDOT. pic.twitter.com/YEq6uCMnvD
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) December 29, 2022
It’s the kind of promise Buttigieg has made before — with few tangible results.
The Biden administration official pledged to hold airlines accountable months ago, in September, when asked about similar travel disruptions in the airline industry that have become a fact of life at American airports.
While the summer travel rush winds down, we continue to hold airlines accountable.
Air travelers deserve transparency into what they are owed if they experience a controllable delay or cancellation, and DOT has your back. pic.twitter.com/trBekiiSlE
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) September 19, 2022
In September, Buttigieg pledged in an appearance on CBS’ “The Late Late Show with James Corden” that air travel would become “better by the holidays.”
It’s hard to imagine Buttigieg making an argument that air travelers are better off in circumstances where a major airline cancels 70 percent of its total flights at the peak holiday season.
Buttigieg‘s talked a tough game on the airlines in the aftermath of the travel disaster, but the time and place to prevent further meltdowns would’ve been months ago.
For the American travelers who make their plans around transportation systems that should be reliable, talk counts for nothing. It’s results that matter.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.