New York attorney general Letitia James first informed Buttigieg of the potential for airline chaos on August 2, warning the Transportation Secretary of an "escalating pattern of airlines delaying and canceling flights."
The Christmas period saw tens of thousands of passengers stranded at airports, the vast majority of them due to canceled or delayed Southwest Airlines flights.
Even in July, 29 percent of Southwest's flights were delayed. "Airlines knowingly advertising and booking flights they do not have adequate staff to operate are flying in the face of the law," James said at the time.
A month later, a bipartisan group of 38 state attorneys wrote to Congress that Buttigieg's department had "failed to respond and to provide appropriate recourse" for the numerous cancellations and "systematic failures to provide required credits to those who lost travel opportunities."
The letter, dated August 31, points out that "state attorneys general have little to no authority to hold airline companies accountable for unacceptable behavior towards consumers," and that without adequate oversight from the Department of Transportation, major airlines have ben allowed to "mistreat consumers."
"Americans are justifiably frustrated that federal government agencies charged with overseeing airline consumer protection are unable or unwilling to hold the airline industry accountable and to swiftly investigate complaints submitted to the Department of Transportation," the letter says.
James presented Buttigieg with a series of recommendations, such as imposing stiff fines for domestic flight delays of more than two hours.
In September, Buttigieg said, "I think it's going to get better by the holidays. We're really pressing the airlines to deliver better service."
The Christmas holiday period has seen more than 12,000 flight cancellations from Southwest Airlines, 2,357 of them on Thursday alone. On this same day, the other airlines combined have fewer than 100 flights.
Buttigieg said that the adverse weather conditions can no longer be blamed for Southwest's "meltdown.".
"What this indicates is a system failure, and they need to make sure that these stranded passengers get to where they need to go and that they are provided adequate compensation," he said this week.
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