U.S. transport chief presses airlines after delays, cancellations

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg testifies before a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on President Biden’s proposed budget request for the Department of Transportation, on Capitol Hill in Washington, United States, May 3, 2022. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) – U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday urged airline executives to ensure summer flight schedules are adhered to after a recent spate of cancellations, an official said. source at Reuters.

Buttigieg called the virtual meeting with US airline CEOs after more than 2,700 flights were canceled over the Memorial Day holiday, prompting two US senators to ask if airlines were held responsible for the disruptions.

It “has pushed airlines to check whether they can reliably operate the schedules they have published and future schedules under consideration,” the source said.

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Travelers are bracing for a tough summer as airlines expect record demand and rebuild workforces after thousands of workers left the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most planes are operating near full capacity and airlines often have less leeway to deal with flight disruptions.

Buttigieg asked chief executives to detail steps to resolve issues around the July 4 holiday and the summer season and urged airlines to improve customer service to quickly accommodate customers after canceled flights, the source added. .

On Thursday, thunderstorms and high volume caused major delays in Boston, Washington, New York and Charlotte, North Carolina, causing long ground stops or delays for inbound flights.

Aviation website FlightAware said there were more than 6,900 US flights delayed and more than 1,500 flight cancellations.

Industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A), which confirmed the virtual meeting with Buttigieg, told Congress last week that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must ensure the air traffic control system is capable of respond to the request.

Last month, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey asked A4A, which represents American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), United Airlines (UAL.O) and others, for answers on Memorial Day cancellations.

The FAA said in May it would bolster authorized air traffic control personnel at its center in Jacksonville, Fla., after bad weather and space launches.

The senators separately asked Buttigieg to detail the steps his office was “taking to hold airlines accountable for severe disruptions and to ensure consumers are fully and fairly compensated.”

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Reporting by David Shepardson; edited by Jason Neely, Chizu Nomiyama and Deepa Babington

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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