Buttigieg Says Transportation Department Working to Avert Summer Travel Disruptions Amid Demand Surge

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg held a news conference on May 23 highlighting the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proactive measures to address travel concerns as the summer season travel commences.

The news conference highlighted statistics indicating that air travel is reaching pre-pandemic levels and high volumes are expected.

“The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] is projecting more than 51,000 flights on Thursday [May 25] alone,” Buttigieg told reporters.

The transportation secretary emphasized the need for a seamless travel experience and outlined the steps being taken by the DOT. In an attempt to ensure a smooth travel experience, the Department of Transportation has adopted a twofold approach: collaboration with and necessary pressure on airlines.

Buttigieg stressed the importance of working closely with airlines to reduce congestion, increase capacity, and enhance customer service and performance.

Additionally, the Department of Transportation aims to hold airlines accountable for disruptions and enforce passengers’ rights.

The Department of Transportation has initiated various initiatives to tackle potential challenges. Collaboration with airlines includes allowing the use of larger planes with more seats at lower frequencies, reducing congestion, and increasing passenger capacity.

In Florida, where commercial space launches can impact on-time performance, efforts are underway to minimize conflicts during peak travel times. The FAA is also actively hiring more air traffic controllers to address staffing constraints and meet growing demand.

Additionally, the activation of new, more efficient flight routes is expected to save time and money compared to older routes.

While weather remains the primary cause of flight delays, airlines themselves were responsible for over one-third of all cancellations last year, based on industry data.

Recognizing the recent surge in air travel, Buttigieg shared that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported May 22 as the busiest air travel day since February 2020, with over 2.6 million passengers.

“This is a country that ushered in the aviation age, and we ought to have the best aviation system in the world, and we are here at work to make sure that passengers have that support,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg highlighted improvements in airlines’ on-time performance in recent months. According to the Biden administration official, cancellation rates have consistently remained below 2 percent, surpassing the 10-year average.

However, the upcoming weekend will serve as a crucial test for the system’s ability to handle increased travel volumes, with the memory of last summer’s disruptions still fresh in travelers’ minds.

The Department of Transportation remains committed to passenger protection and will enforce accountability in such cases.

Buttigieg asserted that over the past two years, significant progress has been made in securing refunds for canceled flights, establishing enforceable commitments from major U.S. airlines for free rebooking, meals, and hotel vouchers, proposing transparent fee disclosure rules, and initiating a new rule-making process to compensate passengers for major delays or cancellations caused by airlines.

As the summer travel season approaches, Buttigieg urged travelers to visit the Department of Transportation website, flightrights.gov. The website provides detailed information on services and commitments offered by different airlines.

Travelers can review compensation options, file complaints, and access resources to address any issues they may encounter.

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