From thousands of canceled flights to planes narrowly avoiding collisions on the runway, airlines across the U.S. have been struggling in a major way.
In this TSR Newz exclusive interview White House transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke with The Shade Room‘s Justin Carter about what the Department of Transportation has in store to turn things around and what big changes we can expect from airlines in the future.
Pete Buttigieg Steps Into The Shade Room To Discuss Plans To Fix Ongoing Airline Issues
And as summer travel season approaches, many airlines are doing a lot more with less, and have taken note after what happened to Southwest Airlines over the holidays.
17,000 Southwest flights were canceled during one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, leaving would-be passengers stranded at the airport and unable to get through to customer service for days.
On Thursday, a Senate hearing was held where Southwest executives offered their sincere apologies and said they didn’t have enough equipment to handle the winter freeze that most of the U.S. experienced.
Meanwhile on Friday, the Southwest execs said they are launching fixes to their crew scheduling system that had failed during the extreme weather conditions the country faced in late 2022.
Ongoing Airline Issues Terrifying Travelers As Several Planes Nearly Collide On Runway
The airline issues at Southwest were just one of many ongoing problems.
On January 13, two planes nearly ran into each other at New York’s JFK Airport, when a Delta plane taking off nearly collided with an American Airlines flight crossing the runway in front of it, coming within 1,000 feet of crashing.
The same thing happened last Saturday in Austin, Texas, when a FedEx plane was landing just as a Southwest Airlines flight was cleared for take off. They were only 100 feet from each other in that case.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Joe Biden lauded his $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, $25 billion of which is going to transform our airports and air traffic control.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the changes are absolutely critical.
“That near misses JFK, that was a situation where there was a pilot error, a quick thinking air traffic controller intervened, I actually spoke to the controller, and he said, Look, you know this, this is just me doing my job. But that job, of course, is so important, lifesaving,” Buttigieg told The Shade Room.
Buttigieg Lauds “Many Layers Of Protection” But Says “That Doesn’t Get Maintained On Its Own”
Buttigieg went on to say that the “good news is there are many, many layers of protection,” however “that doesn’t get maintained on its own.”
“Now the good news is there are many, many layers of protection so their really focused on eliminating any single point of failure to make sure there’s systems backing up systems, people backing up people. But again, that doesn’t get maintained on its own. We’ve got to work to make sure that we continue the extraordinarily safe track record of passenger travel in America.”
He did add that “we (have) the most complex aviation airspace in the world,” and maintained that “flying in America continues to be the safest way to travel,” despite recent incidents.
“We got the most complex aviation space airspace in the world,” Buttigieg said. “And yet, flying in America continues to be the safest way to travel, we want to keep it that way. One is what I might call the back of house, most passengers will never find themselves inside an air traffic controller, but every passenger counts on on what’s going on in that air traffic control tower.”
White House Transportation Secretary Says “We’re Investing In The Equipment, Training and People”
Buttigieg went on to say that “we’re investing in the equipment… the training…. and the people in the vision to continue modernizing that system,” amongst other investments.
“We’re investing in the equipment, we’re investing in the training, we’re investing in the people in the vision to continue modernizing that system. But at the same time, we’re also making a lot of investments on the things passengers do see the terminals themselves, everything from investing in small airports where sometimes they haven’t even had permanent buildings, to some of the biggest airports in the United States that are ready for a wider concourse, a better security checkpoint experience and upgraded baggage handling system.”
Military experts are warning that Chinese spy balloons could be fitted with nuclear weapons capable of wiping out America’s entire electronic grid through an electromagnetic pulse attack. pic.twitter.com/lnso98fhSQ
— The Politics Press (@thepoliticpress) February 14, 2023
Buttigieg Speaks On Recent Air Balloon Shot Down Last Week And The Coordination Between Agencies
He also touched on the recent air balloon that was shot down last week, thought to be that of a Chinese spy mission, which grounded or delayed “about 55 flights,” while calling it “a very high profile example” of the coordination between airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration and even the military.
“Remember, the balloon is flying at an extremely high altitude, which meant that if it were to be taken down as it eventually was, it was passing through airspace, and you had to make sure that there were no aircraft flying under that altitude that could have been impacted, as well, of course, is taking care of passengers on the ground. So the FAA wound up calling a ground stop about 55 flights were delayed, I think, on average between an hour and two hours while that operation played out. And that was a very high profile example.
Buttigieg assured Americans that “this kind of coordination goes on every day between the military space program” and the FAA.
But this kind of coordination goes on every day between the military space program, if you just think about a space launch that’s going right through the National Airspace on its way up into orbit that that could be an area where commercial flight operations are taking place. And so the FAA works to make sure at every step, whether it’s military operation, space, operation, weather emergency or anything else, that we are erring on the side of caution, and making sure the passengers are always safe.
President Biden’s New Law Will Fund Billions Of Dollars Into U.S. Infrastructure
On Tuesday, President Biden said the United States used to be number one in infrastructure, but bemoaned the fact that the country has recently sunk to number 13 in the world.
The infrastructure law will fund road and bridge projects with billions of dollars, while replacing poisonous lead pipes in some of the oldest cities in America.
Philadelphia, being among those older cities, will soon receive $500 million to replace aging lead pipes, many of which pump water into Black communities.
Meanwhile, Washington D.C. and Rochester, New York will also get over $50 million to replace or repair water pipes.