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Buttigieg says feds have power to force airlines to hire more workers amid travel delays

The federal government could take action against U.S. airlines on behalf of customers, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Saturday.

Many Americans have endured delays, cancelations, and other travel complications during the coronavirus pandemic, and in recent months, after many pandemic-related travel restrictions were lifted.

Following Buttigieg’s own flight being canceled, forcing him to drive from Washington to New York, he said his department has authority to enforce action against airlines that do not sufficiently maintain consumer-protection standards, potentially requiring them to hire more staff.

“That is happening to a lot of people, and that is exactly why we are paying close attention here to what can be done and how to make sure that the airlines are delivering,” Buttigieg said during an interview with The Associated Press Saturday.

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The comment came just days after Buttigieg met virtually with airline executives on Thursday.

Buttigieg, a former Democratic presidential candidate, said his office would wait until it sees how airlines handle the influx of travel associated with summer and the Fourth of July holiday.

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FILE - Travelers queue up at the north security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport, Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Denver.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

He also encouraged the executives to stress-test their travel capabilities to avoid another repeat of Memorial Day, which was riddled with flight disruptions. The executives agreed and said they would be taking steps to increase their service.

“Now we’re going to see how those steps measure up,” Buttigieg said Saturday.

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American Airlines aircrafts are seen in the background behind travelers passing through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia on April 11, 2022. 

Buttigieg’s department also oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, which has also faced staffing shortages. The FAA said it would hire additional staff to increase its customer service.

 

The Transportation Security Administration, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security Administration, has said they would increase the number of security screeners at select airports so checkpoint lines are less egregious.

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