Winter storm, Buffalo snow and flight cancellation news

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks ahead of a planned Thanksgiving trip at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Nov. 21. (Jim Vondruska/Reuters)

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN that he told Southwest Airlines CEO on Tuesday that the company’s series of flight cancellations was a “meltdown” and an “unacceptable situation.” rice field.

Buttigieg told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “As far as I know, Southwest can’t locate passengers, let alone luggage, or even the whereabouts of the crew,” the leader of the airline union representing flight attendants. He added that he had also spoken to them. and a pilot.

The Commissioner told CEO Bob Jordan that he expects Southwest Airlines to proactively provide refunds and cost reimbursement without asking affected passengers. I have communicated to the CEO our expectation that they will take better care of their passengers and work harder than ever to address this,” he said.

Southwest Airlines said a combination of factors, including winter storm delays, aggressive flight schedules and outdated infrastructure, contributed to the travel disaster.

Buttigieg said the Department of Transportation will hold airlines accountable to ensure that such situations do not happen again.

“Their system is truly utterly broken and we have made it clear that our department will hold them accountable for their responsibilities to our customers in order to get through this situation and prevent it from happening again.” he said.

Buttigieg told CNN that the Department of Transportation was prepared to fine Southwest Airlines if there was evidence that the company failed to meet its legal obligations. It added that it was looking into the customer service issue that had occurred.

“Every other part of the aviation system is recovering and improving day by day, but it’s actually going in the opposite direction with this airline,” Buttigieg said. We have a company that has a lot of work to do,” he added.

The Secretary of Transportation explained the enforcement tools at his disposal and how earlier this year the department was able to help customers with refunds.

“Especially this year, there are enforcement tools that we’re using. For example, we’ve seen a lot of airlines cancel. Through enforcement actions, we have not taken good care of our passengers.We are also in a position to use enforcement and fines to force airlines to keep what they have promised us and promised in writing. I will,” he said.

The Secretary of Transportation said the government does not need to get more money from airlines to refund these passengers. We expect to address the passenger directly with whatever it takes to do so,” Buttigieg said, “but if they don’t, we will use the authorities to do it on our side.” I will make it happen,” he said.

Buttigieg told Blitzer, “The bottom line is that we shouldn’t be doing this in the first place. and will be fined,” he said. , but the real question is how do airlines get to this situation where they can’t even tell where their own personnel are, let alone track passengers and luggage. ”

CNN’s Andy Rose contributed a report to this post.

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