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Buttigieg Predicts Holiday Hell, Then Points the Finger for Impending Disaster

via 60 Minutes

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned of potential setbacks to the aviation sector due to funding cuts and government shutdown threats by “extremist Republicans in Congress.”

He emphasized the progress made in aviation infrastructure and workforce, highlighting the need for continued support.

Buttigieg also discussed the challenges faced by the Federal Aviation Administration and the efforts to improve staffing and technology.

“Bottom line is that, you know, in just two or three years, we’ve gone from people wondering whether the U.S. aviation sector as we knew it would survive to a mountain right now of record demand and record work going on to meet that demand,” he said.

“I need to stress that the progress I’ve discussed and the progress underway with regard to our aviation workforce, technology and infrastructure is not guaranteed.”

“Every time extremist Republicans in Congress bring us to the brink of a government shutdown, it threatens to stop the momentum that we built around training and around protecting customer rights.”

“Every time they threaten to slash funding for DOT and short the FAA – and there’s a Republican proposal to do that on the cusp of reaching the House floor right now – it threatens to reverse all of this progress,” he said.

“So we’re doing everything we can with everything that we have. But if some voices in Congress got their way, we would have to freeze hiring new staff. We would be set back in modernizing computer systems, including the badly outdated system that forced the FAA to ground planes when there was an outage back in January.”

“It would disrupt the progress that we’ve made. I’m certain that it would lead to more disruptions in air travel.”

“It is striking when you see some of these same elected officials who seem ready to make it a partisan issue, even if their flight is delayed in bad weather, turn around and be prepared to go to the floor of the House and cut funding for air traffic control or worse, threaten to shut down the government and force air traffic controllers to work without pay. It is my hope and expectation that reason will prevail on Capitol Hill.”

Despite potential hurdles, he expressed hope for reason to prevail in Congress.

Additionally, he mentioned that 2023 has seen a low cancellation rate for flights, and FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker mentioned the expectation of nearly 50,000 flights on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

“This holiday season is estimated to bring some of the busiest travel days in U.S. history, building on a summer that was already record-breaking,” he said separately.

“We wanted to come together today ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday to share a bit of an update on what we are doing to make air travel easier and what we are doing to protect the rights of travelers,” he addd.

“It bears pointing out that less than three years ago when President Biden took office during the toughest days of the pandemic, the biggest concern around our nation’s airlines was whether they were going to survive at all. And if they did, how many years or even decades it would take for them to recover. Of course, aviation is just one of the sectors in the economy that rebounded much more quickly than was thought possible during the Biden economic recovery.”

“Winter weather may challenge airlines in the next few weeks, but so far, 2023 has seen the lowest cancellation rate in the last five years at just 1.3%. It’s much lower than last year.”

“It’s lower even than before the pandemic, which translates to millions more people getting to home or getting to work or getting to their loved ones as expected.”

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