Buttigieg says holiday airline travel will improve after summer of delays, cancellations

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday that he believes airline travel will improve ahead of the upcoming holidays and that U.S. carriers need to make sure the system is ready. 

"I think it's going to get better by the holidays. We're really pressing the airlines to deliver better service," he said during an appearance on "The Late Late Show with James Corden." "So many people have been delayed and been canceled. It's happened to me several times this summer. And, the fact is: they need to be ready to service the tickets that they're selling."

Cancellations and delays have plagued airports over the summer, frustrating travelers and sending airline workers scrambling. 

STATES ASK CONGRESS FOR MORE AIRLINE PASSENGER PROTECTIONS

People wait in a TSA line at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Tuesday, June 28, 2022.  (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson, File / AP Newsroom)

Citing staffing shortages, many airlines slashed their summer schedules – moves they said would reduce congestion.

Buttigieg had previously scolded airline CEOs, calling recent disruptions "unacceptable." 

"We're taking a number of steps," he told Corden. "And, if you've ever been mistreated by an airline, if they haven't given you the refund they owe you, if they haven't lived up to their customer service obligations, we will have your back."

A pilot walks through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. (Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

He encouraged flyers to file a complaint with the DOT, highlighting a recent tool devised by the department that ensures the public has easy access to information about airline services to mitigate passenger inconveniences when the cause of a cancellation or delay was due to circumstances within the airline’s control. 

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"Just since we announced that we were going to post that on our website, we went from zero of the top 10 airlines committing that they're going to provide a meal or hotel, for example, to eight out of 10 doing it," Buttigieg said.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, center, speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, May 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File / AP Newsroom)

"So, we're pushing them. They're responding," he added. "But, when they actually fail to live up to the rules, there's serious enforcement behind that and we want to know if that's happened to you." 

For the first time since the pandemic's start, the number of people heading through U.S. airport-security checkpoints over a holiday weekend exceeded pre-pandemic travel levels.

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In a first for a holiday weekend, more than 8.7 million people passed through security over four days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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