Now some criticism is coming from within his own party.
In a tweet on Thursday, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) wrote, “Nearly six months ago [Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) [and] I called for Buttigieg to implement fines [and] penalties on airlines for cancelling flights.”
“Why were these recommendations not followed? This mess with Southwest could have been avoided. We need bold action,” he continued.
Nearly six months ago @BernieSanders & I called for Buttigieg to implement fines & penalties on airlines for cancelling flights. Why were these recommendations not followed? This mess with Southwest could have been avoided. We need bold action. https://t.co/wVH4iAezfx
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) December 29, 2022
Khanna shared a June article from the progressive magazine The American Prospect.
It noted Sanders urged Buttigieg to implement steps to punish airlines for canceling flights, such as requiring them to reimburse passengers or fining airlines if they cancel flights due to staffing issues.
In a June letter, Khanna told the Transportation secretary, “The Department’s incremental response so far has been lacking the urgency, imagination, and boldness to meet the moment and needs of the American people.”
The congressman also told the Prospect he believes Buttigieg “needs to lay out a framework for what the consequences will be for canceled flights, understaffing, and misrepresentations to passengers.”
Khanna’s tweet comes as Southwest has come under fire for canceling thousands of flights.
The airline has canceled at least 15,000 flights in the past week due to a massive winter storm. However, the cancellations continued even as other carrier, such as Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines, were able to resume flights.
The New York Times explained Southwest’s “point-to-point” route model — which allows passengers to fly from a smaller city without having to stop at a hub — is partially behind the cancellations.
“With a hub system, there’s a ready pool of crew members and pilots who can report to work at a major airport, said Mike Arnot, an industry analyst. ”That makes it easier to regroup after a storm.”
“Planes also are kept closer to their home airports, rather than being spread across the country,” the paper explained.
By contrast, smaller airports usually do not have “excess crew.”
Additionally, Southwest’s pilots and flight attendant unions pointed to what they argued was outdated technology that should have been updated.
On Thursday, Southwest said it plans to resume “normal” service on Friday.
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