Top Dems slam Pete B for failing to stop ‘airmageddon’ and demand he fines airlines

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is under fire from leading figures in his own party for failing to stop ‘airmageddon’ flight hell as travel chaos continued through the Fourth of July weekend.

More than 312 flights were canceled and 4,244 were delayed by Sunday evening during the busiest holiday weekend since the pandemic began.

Another 88 have so-far been canceled for Monday – although that number will likely rise exponentially as July 4 travel commences, affecting thousands of Americans returning from a long weekend away. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna of California both called for Buttigieg to take action well ahead of the holiday weekend, according to letters they sent out last week. 

Sanders urged Buttigieg to require airlines to refund passengers for flights delayed more than an hour, impose fines of a rate of $55,000 per passenger for flights delayed for more than two hours, and fines for airlines that cannot ‘properly staff’ scheduled flights.

As travel chaos escalated over the weekend as feared, Sanders took to Twitter to once again called out Buttigieg to set a plan in motion. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday

Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) demanded Washington fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancelation they know can’t be fully staffed and slammed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (right) for failing to fix the travel chaos 

More than 312 flights were canceled and 4,215 were delayed by Sunday evening during the busiest holiday weekend since the pandemic began

More than 312 flights were canceled and 4,215 were delayed by Sunday evening during the busiest holiday weekend since the pandemic began

More than 312 flights were canceled and 4,215 were delayed by Sunday evening during the busiest holiday weekend since the pandemic began

Another 88 have so-far been canceled for Monday - although that number will likely rise exponentially as July 4 travel commences, affecting thousands of Americans returning from a long weekend away

Another 88 have so-far been canceled for Monday - although that number will likely rise exponentially as July 4 travel commences, affecting thousands of Americans returning from a long weekend away

Another 88 have so-far been canceled for Monday – although that number will likely rise exponentially as July 4 travel commences, affecting thousands of Americans returning from a long weekend away

Travelers arrive an air train at Newark Liberty Airport on Sunday. Another 88 have so-far been canceled for Monday - although that number will likely rise exponentially as July 4 travel commences, affecting thousands of Americans returning from a long weekend away

Travelers arrive an air train at Newark Liberty Airport on Sunday. Another 88 have so-far been canceled for Monday - although that number will likely rise exponentially as July 4 travel commences, affecting thousands of Americans returning from a long weekend away

Travelers arrive an air train at Newark Liberty Airport on Sunday. Another 88 have so-far been canceled for Monday – although that number will likely rise exponentially as July 4 travel commences, affecting thousands of Americans returning from a long weekend away

‘The airlines got $54 billion in taxpayer money. They said thanks by jacking up ticket prices 45% & stranding passengers at crowded airports. Enough,’ Sanders wrote. ‘It’s time for the Transportation Department to impose massive fines on poor-performing airlines & full refunds for long delays.’

At least 312 flights were canceled by 11 p.m. Sunday night and a staggering 4,244 delayed, according to FlightAware, which reported that by the end of Saturday, 654 US flights were called off and 5,860 were delayed. 

United Airlines had canceled 55 flights and delayed 314 by Sunday evening. Delta has canceled 53 flights and delayed 433, American Airlines has canceled 29 and delayed 533, and JetBlue has canceled just six and delayed 270.

Ahead of the holiday weekend, Sanders called for action from Buttigieg, telling his supporters in an email to urge the Biden administration to ‘take action to reduce flight cancellations and delays.’ 

‘All over this country, airline passengers are growing increasingly frustrated by the massive increase in flight delays, cancellations, and outrageously high prices they are forced to pay for tickets, checked bags and other fees,’ Sanders wrote. 

‘Thousands of flight disruptions have left passengers and crew members stranded at crowded airports from one end of the country to the other forcing them to miss weddings, funerals, and business meetings and ruining family vacations that have been planned for months in advance.’ 

Rep. Khanna, who serves on the House Oversight Committee and is deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, joined Sanders on the issue and also wrote to Buttigieg.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna of California both called for Buttigieg to take action well ahead of the holiday weekend, according to letters they sent out last week

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna of California both called for Buttigieg to take action well ahead of the holiday weekend, according to letters they sent out last week

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna of California both called for Buttigieg to take action well ahead of the holiday weekend, according to letters they sent out last week

Rep. Khanna, who serves on the House Oversight Committee and is deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, joined Sanders on the issue and also wrote to Buttigieg

Rep. Khanna, who serves on the House Oversight Committee and is deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, joined Sanders on the issue and also wrote to Buttigieg

Rep. Khanna, who serves on the House Oversight Committee and is deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, joined Sanders on the issue and also wrote to Buttigieg

‘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,’ he wrote.

Khanna told The American Prospect: ‘Buttigieg needs to make clear that he has the authority to go after the airlines for unfair and deceptive practices. He needs to lay out a framework for what the consequences will be for canceled flights, understaffing, and misrepresentations to passengers.’ 

Buttigieg, who previously called on airlines to get in shape before the weekend, appeared to give up on getting things under control yesterday as he told Americans to follow his lead and claim compensation over the canceled flights. 

‘Airlines offer miles as compensation for some travel issues, and you can often negotiate on this,’ tweeted Buttigieg, who said he got back $112.07 over his canceled flight on Friday after he was initially offered about $30 back. 

‘Sometimes an airline will offer you points or miles as compensation, but you are entitled to a cash refund when your flight is canceled.’

Delta has taken to drastic measures to quell customer dissatisfaction, with passengers from one overbooked Delta flight reporting that the airline offered eight passengers $10,000 each to forfeit their seats last week. 

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Around 48 million people are expected to travel this weekend with AAA estimating 3.5million would take to the air. But the actual number of passengers flying may be dramatically higher as, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.1 million travelers at airports on Saturday alone.

Leading major U.S. airlines in cancellations on yesterday was American Airlines, which canceled 102 flights and delayed 889 flights. Delta followed behind, canceling 82 flights and delaying 535.

United Airlines canceled 43 flights and delayed 492, and Southwest has called off 25 flights and delayed 1,048 flights. 

Since the hectic Juneteenth travel weekend, the U.S. has seen more than 12,000 flights cancelled, according to FlightAware. 

In addition to airport chaos and heavy traffic, holiday travelers will have to contend with higher prices. Average gas prices have soared 56 percent from a year ago, mid-range hotel prices have increased 23 percent, and average lowest airfares are up 14 percent. 

In total, AAA projects that 47.9 million Americans will travel for the Fourth this year, up 3.7 percent from last year and close to the historic peak reached in 2019, before the pandemic struck.

At least 312 flights were canceled by 11 p.m. Sunday night and a staggering 4,244 delayed, according to FlightAware , which reported that by the end of Saturday, 654 US flights were called off and 5,860 were delayed

At least 312 flights were canceled by 11 p.m. Sunday night and a staggering 4,244 delayed, according to FlightAware , which reported that by the end of Saturday, 654 US flights were called off and 5,860 were delayed

At least 312 flights were canceled by 11 p.m. Sunday night and a staggering 4,244 delayed, according to FlightAware , which reported that by the end of Saturday, 654 US flights were called off and 5,860 were delayed 

Travelers checking departure boards at Newark Liberty International Airport, as hundreds of flights are delayed and cancelled

Travelers checking departure boards at Newark Liberty International Airport, as hundreds of flights are delayed and cancelled

Travelers checking departure boards at Newark Liberty International Airport, as hundreds of flights are delayed and cancelled

Chaos continues to swamp U.S. airports amid the busiest travel weekend since the pandemic with more than 600 flights canceled and nearly 2,900 delayed as of Saturday morning. Pictured: Travelers waiting at check-in at Miami airport Saturday

Chaos continues to swamp U.S. airports amid the busiest travel weekend since the pandemic with more than 600 flights canceled and nearly 2,900 delayed as of Saturday morning. Pictured: Travelers waiting at check-in at Miami airport Saturday

Chaos continues to swamp U.S. airports amid the busiest travel weekend since the pandemic with more than 600 flights canceled and nearly 2,900 delayed as of Saturday morning. Pictured: Travelers waiting at check-in at Miami airport Saturday

Fourth Of July travel by the numbers 

Here’s how the travel projections for this holiday weekend stack up against last year, according to AAA: 

 2021 (actual)

  • Average gas price: $3.12
  • Drivers on the road: 41.8M
  • Air travelers: 3.5M
  • Others taking trips (bus, train): 900K
  • Total travelers: 46.2M
  • Average airfare: $176
  • Average hotel cost: $198
  • Average car rental cost: $166

 2022 (forecast)

  • Average gas price: $4.86
  • Drivers on the road: 42M
  • Air travelers: 3.55M
  • Others taking trips (bus, train): 2.42M
  • Total travelers: 47.9M
  • Average airfare: $201
  • Average hotel cost: $244
  • Average car rental cost: $110
  •  

In addition, the Biden administration is blaming the airlines, saying it received billions in stimulus money to keep afloat during the pandemic and should stick to the schedule it publishes. 

Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday.   

Buttigieg pushed back earlier this week when the head of the trade group Airlines for America blamed the FAA for delays.

‘The majority of cancellations and the majority of delays have nothing to do with air traffic control staffing,’ Buttigieg told NBC Nightly News.

Amid the Fourth of July travel chaos, many are calling on Buttigieg to act rather than give out advice on how to get compensation like he did. 

One Twitter user with the handle, The Dude, wrote: ‘Hey Pete … maybe, as Secretary of Transportation, you should be meeting with FAA, major airlines and other key folk involved – slamming your fist on the table and demanding they work out these issues and a plan to address the problems … not update us on frequent flyer miles. 

Another Twitter user with the handle, Limstone Caulk, added: ‘How about, people just want to go somewhere when they actually paid to go?’ 

Brian Jackson, another Twitter user, said he, too, wanted Buttigieg to be proactive in the situation.

‘You know [as] the Secretary of Transportation you could maybe I don’t know fix the root cause of the delays so no one would need a refund and would actually get to their destination?’ 

Another Twitter user with the handle Pantazopopulos wrote:  ‘How bout you actually find out the reasons the airlines are having issues and see if there is a way to help, I mean, if you’re not busy, since you are Transportation Secretary.’ 

The long wait times and delays are taking a toll on passengers. Pictured, a woman sleeping in a makeshift bed at the Miami International airport on Saturday morning

The long wait times and delays are taking a toll on passengers. Pictured, a woman sleeping in a makeshift bed at the Miami International airport on Saturday morning

The long wait times and delays are taking a toll on passengers. Pictured, a woman sleeping in a makeshift bed at the Miami International airport on Saturday morning 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Americans on Saturday to seek compensation over canceled flights like he did

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Americans on Saturday to seek compensation over canceled flights like he did

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Americans on Saturday to seek compensation over canceled flights like he did

Passengers at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are fairing no better waiting to check into their flights on Saturday morning, pictured. The airport was just as hectic the previous two days

Passengers at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are fairing no better waiting to check into their flights on Saturday morning, pictured. The airport was just as hectic the previous two days

Passengers at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are fairing no better waiting to check into their flights on Saturday morning, pictured. The airport was just as hectic the previous two days

The situation is the same at the Newark Liberty Airport as United Airlines passengers check-in their luggage on Saturday

The situation is the same at the Newark Liberty Airport as United Airlines passengers check-in their luggage on Saturday

The situation is the same at the Newark Liberty Airport as United Airlines passengers check-in their luggage on Saturday

Wait times were just as long at the LAX International Airport, where travelers used kiosks to check into their flights on Saturday

Wait times were just as long at the LAX International Airport, where travelers used kiosks to check into their flights on Saturday

Wait times were just as long at the LAX International Airport, where travelers used kiosks to check into their flights on Saturday

Long lines were also seen at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Saturday afternoon

Long lines were also seen at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Saturday afternoon

Long lines were also seen at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Saturday afternoon

Even after check-in, the New Jersey passengers must contend with equally long lines at the security check

Even after check-in, the New Jersey passengers must contend with equally long lines at the security check

Even after check-in, the New Jersey passengers must contend with equally long lines at the security check

It's the same at the Miami airport as people travel during the chaotic Fourth of July weekend on Saturday morning

It's the same at the Miami airport as people travel during the chaotic Fourth of July weekend on Saturday morning

It’s the same at the Miami airport as people travel during the chaotic Fourth of July weekend on Saturday morning

Hundreds of cars arrived at the Atlanta airport before dawn on Saturday amid a spate of flight cancellations and delays

Hundreds of cars arrived at the Atlanta airport before dawn on Saturday amid a spate of flight cancellations and delays

Hundreds of cars arrived at the Atlanta airport before dawn on Saturday amid a spate of flight cancellations and delays

While Buttigieg was only able to finagle $112 out of his flight cancellation, eight passengers on a Delta airlines flight to Minneapolis last week reportedly walked away with $10,000 each in return for giving up their seats on the overbooked flight.

Inc. magazine Tech columnist Jason Aten wrote how he and his family were sitting onboard the aircraft before takeoff, when flight crew announced the offer over the intercom.

‘If you have Apple Pay, you’ll even have the money right now,’ he said a the flight attendant told passengers.

Another passenger on the same flight, Todd McCrumb, told KTVB that staff initially offered passengers $5,000, before bumping it up to $10,000.

Speaking to The New York Post, a spokesperson for Delta Airlines declined to comment on the amount passengers were offered on that flight, but confirmed that flight crews were authorized offer cash to passengers. 

‘Compensation is one of the many ways that our employees are empowered to manage oversold flights to take care of customers, but also make sure that the aircraft go out on time,’ said spokesperson Anthony Black.

In April 2017 after a passenger was injured while being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight, Delta authorized employees to offer up to $9,950 to passengers for giving up overbooked seats, according to The Post.

Sen. Bernie Sanders demanded Washington fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancellation they know can’t be fully staffed. He also demanded that the DOT impose a $15,000 fine per passengers facing extended delays on domestic and international flights. 

‘The American people are sick of airlines ripping them off, canceling flights at the last minute and delaying flights for hours on end,’ he said.

‘Given all of the generous taxpayer support that has been provided to the airline industry, all of us have a responsibility to make sure that passengers and crew members are treated with respect, not contempt.’ 

Sens. Edward Markey, of Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, asked 10 airline CEOs this week to ‘take immediate action’ to reduce travel disruptions. The senators demanded information about how each airline decides which flights to cancel and the number of consumer refunds requested and granted. 

Many on Twitter demanded action from Buttigieg to curb the cancellations and delays at airports

Many on Twitter demanded action from Buttigieg to curb the cancellations and delays at airports

Many on Twitter demanded action from Buttigieg to curb the cancellations and delays at airports

As Delta Air Lines led cancellations on Friday,  CEO Ed Bastian wrote an apology letter to customers and vowed to make major changes, including adding extra boarding times, improving crew scheduling and bringing on more workers to aid busy travel periods.

‘We’ve spent years establishing Delta as the industry leader in reliability, and though the majority of our flights continue to operate on time, this level of disruption and uncertainty is unacceptable,’ Bastian wrote in a letter to frequent flier clients. 

‘Things won’t change overnight, but we’re on a path towards a steady recovery.’ 

Since the start of the summer travel season, Delta has canceled more than 3,600 flights and delayed 20 percent of its total flights since the Memorial Day weekend.  

Travel through Delta is likely to be further complicated after its pilots started picketing on Thursday at several major airports including LAX, JFK and Atlanta, demanding better contracts as crews are allegedly overworked during the holiday rush. 

While Delta pilots are on strike, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom announced this week that its pilots were getting a 17 percent raise, CNBC reported. 

The proposal includes an initial 6 percent raise at signing for about 15,000 pilots, with a 5 percent raise at the star of 2023, and then another in 2024. 

The deal comes less than a week after United Airlines and its pilot’s union reached an agreement to raise wages by 14 percent within 18 months. 

United’s pilot’s union said it hold a special meeting next week to evaluate the airlines offer and see how it stacks with American’s offer. 

‘We will not rush to a decision and will work as a unified body to find the best course of action for the entire pilot group,’ the United union said in a statement.

Travelers are pictured packing the line for car rentals at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Saturday

Travelers are pictured packing the line for car rentals at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Saturday

Travelers are pictured packing the line for car rentals at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Saturday

As they wait to checkout cars, the passengers will be among the 42 million Americans hitting the road this weekend

As they wait to checkout cars, the passengers will be among the 42 million Americans hitting the road this weekend

As they wait to checkout cars, the passengers will be among the 42 million Americans hitting the road this weekend

In Miami, a group of passengers are pictured enduring long wait times for their flight at the international air hub

In Miami, a group of passengers are pictured enduring long wait times for their flight at the international air hub

In Miami, a group of passengers are pictured enduring long wait times for their flight at the international air hub

Several passengers were scene lying down next to their bags while waiting for check-in to finally begin on Saturday

Several passengers were scene lying down next to their bags while waiting for check-in to finally begin on Saturday

Several passengers were scene lying down next to their bags while waiting for check-in to finally begin on Saturday

Some at the Miami airport took the wait as a chance to get some sleep before boarding their flight on July 2

Some at the Miami airport took the wait as a chance to get some sleep before boarding their flight on July 2

Some at the Miami airport took the wait as a chance to get some sleep before boarding their flight on July 2

Pictured: a man rushing through the airport to get to his check-in area at the Atlanta airport on Saturday morning

Pictured: a man rushing through the airport to get to his check-in area at the Atlanta airport on Saturday morning

Pictured: a man rushing through the airport to get to his check-in area at the Atlanta airport on Saturday morning 

Check-in was equally as brutal at the Newark Libtery International Airport, in New Jesey, pictured on Saturday

Check-in was equally as brutal at the Newark Libtery International Airport, in New Jesey, pictured on Saturday

Check-in was equally as brutal at the Newark Libtery International Airport, in New Jesey, pictured on Saturday

One woman at the New Jersey airport was pictured checking her luggage as she waited to go through security

One woman at the New Jersey airport was pictured checking her luggage as she waited to go through security

One woman at the New Jersey airport was pictured checking her luggage as she waited to go through security

A record 42 million people around the United States are expected to hit the road for trips over the Fourth of July holiday weekend despite average gas price surging close to $5 per gallon.

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The average U.S. retail price of gasoline recently broke through $5 per gallon for the first time in history. It has gone down slightly and averaged $4.81 on Sunday.

While the $5 price is not record from an inflation-adjusted basis, it still represents an increase of nearly $2 per gallon from a year earlier. 

Despite the higher cost, gasoline demand is only 1 percent below the average for this time of year in the United States, and a record number of people are expected to travel by car for the holiday weekend. 

Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, told the Houston Chronicle, ‘The high prices don’t seem to be holding many Americans back from hitting the road with the economy fully reopen.’ 

The 42 million figure, should it pan out, would surpass 2019’s peak, when 41.5 million people traveled by vehicle on Independence Day, according to the American Automobile Association.

Including air travel, 47.9 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday period, just 2 percent less than 2019’s 49 million, but surpassing 2021’s levels, the travel membership organization said.

‘The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear,’ said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. ‘Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase and it’s not tapering off.’

Among the biggest boost in travel includes those going by train and bus, which is estimated to be about 2.42 million people, a dramatic increase from the 900,000 last year.  

Through April 2022, 1.017 trillion vehicle miles were reported, a rate that trails only 2019 and 2018 in terms of pace, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Flight cancelation Q&A: Why are airlines slashing so many flights and what is being done to fix it? 

Why are there so many delays and attempts by the airlines to cancel and delay flights? 

The airlines are increasingly trying to blame delays on understaffing at the Federal Aviation Administration, which manages the nation’s airspace and hires air-traffic controllers. 

The FAA has admitted it’s understaffed, especially in an important air control center in Florida, which has meant a decrease in the quality of service and an increase in delays and cancelations. 

Problems were popping up well before the weekend, with some disruptions caused by thunderstorms that slowed air traffic. 

Helane Becker, an airline analyst for Cowen, an investment firm, said there are many reasons for the disruptions, including weather, FAA ground stops that last too long and flight crews hitting their legal limit of working hours in a day. 

Why are airlines cutting flights? 

Many of them, including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue, have trimmed summer schedules to reduce stress on their operations. They are using larger planes, on average, to carry more passengers with the same number of pilots. Those steps haven’t been enough so far this summer. 

Are the pilots striking? 

The pilots are not striking. Federal law creates a long and difficult process before airline workers can legally go on strike. The pilots are still walking picket lines while remaining on the job at various airports.

The pilots plan to picket, not strike, on the days they’re not scheduled to work in order to bring attention to the issues. 

Why are pilots attempting to picket?

Pilots have complained that thinly staffed airlines are asking them to work too many flights, with more pilots reporting fatigue. 

The Air Line Pilots Association claimed earlier this week its nearly 14,000 members are working longer hours even as airlines cancel thousands of trips. 

What have officials proposed to potentially fix this or punish the airlines? 

The Biden administration is blaming the airlines, saying it received billions in stimulus money to keep them afloat during the pandemic and should stick to the schedule it publishes. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote a letter to Buttigieg demanding he fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancellation they know can’t be fully staffed. 

Congressional leaders are demanding the airlines provide answers as to why there continues to be disruptions, especially since the industry received $50 billion in relief during the pandemic in an effort to keep business afloat.

Top Dems slam Pete B for failing to stop ‘airmageddon’ and demand he fines airlines Source link Top Dems slam Pete B for failing to stop ‘airmageddon’ and demand he fines airlines

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