Buttigieg Calls Meeting With Airline CEOs Over Delays

Buttigieg Calls Meeting With Airline CEOs Over Delays

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With airlines continuing to face major operational issues, they’re being called to the principal’s office today… or something like that.

Transportation Secretary meeting with airline CEOs

It’s being reported that US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is meeting virtually today with CEOs from major US airlines, to discuss the busy summer travel season and flight disruptions. Sources suggest that the meeting is intended to discuss “plans to ensure safe and reliable service this summer,” in particular over the July 4th holiday.

Obviously we’ve seen a huge number of flight disruptions in recent months as travel demand has surge, and that’s only likely to get worse, as leisure travel demand is reaching new levels this summer.

This meeting comes after Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey raised concerns about how unreliably airlines are operating. Meanwhile airlines have been trying to shift some blame to the Federal Aviation Administration, arguing that the nation’s air traffic control system needs to be prepared for an increase in demand, given that there have been issues there as well.

Airlines are seeing a surge in demand this summer

Prediction: nothing will change

Of course everyone is frustrated by how unreliably airlines are operating, but realistically I’m not sure a meeting between senior government officials and the airlines will solve much:

  • It’s not that airlines don’t know they have operational problems, but rather they’re prioritizing profitability above operational reliability
  • Airline executives are much more incentivized to maximize revenue rather than anything else, because at the end of the day that’s what they’re rewarded based on
  • Realistically speaking, the government doesn’t actually have much leverage here, aside from just generally attempting to appear to stand up for consumers
  • Fault for operational issues isn’t even entirely with airlines here, as there are also major staffing (and other) issues at every level of the aviation supply chain, ranging from Boeing not being able to deliver aircraft on time, to a shortage of airport contractors
  • This isn’t just a US-centric problem, because just look at the current state of air travel in Europe, which isn’t exactly great either

Let me also say that while the lack of operational reliability in the airline industry is frustrating, I feel like people also kind of have unrealistic expectations. It’s not like reliability issues are limited to the airline industry. Getting anything on-time nowadays, from food delivery to a new car, is no small feat.

If you’re traveling this summer and want to be realistic, expecting that you’re going to be delayed by a day and that your bag is going to be lost. The truth is that this just the reality of travel at the moment, and I say that from experience. I passed through Frankfurt Airport today, and I’ve never seen it that busy before in my entire life.

Oh, and both of our bags were lost. Yet I’m not really upset about it, because I was kind of expecting that. Summer holidays haven’t even started in Germany, so it’s only going to get worse from here. None of that is to excuse what’s going on, but rather to simply point out that this is the reality of travel right now.

Expect operational issues if you travel this summer

Bottom line

US Transportation Secretary Buttigieg is discussing airline operational reliability with industry CEOs today, so that these issues can be avoided ahead of the peak summer travel period.

While I can appreciate the intent behind this, I also can’t emphasize enough that air travel is going to be an operational disaster this summer, no matter what conversations take place. Sure, this is largely because airlines aren’t willing to sacrifice profits for operational reliability, but it also comes down to so many other factors that are contributing to reliable services throughout the economy.

What’s your take on this situation?

Conversations (28)
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  1. Tim Dunn Diamond

    anyone that wants to assign blame needs to bookmark two pages
    nasstatus dot faa dot gov
    and
    flightaware dot com backslash live backslash cancelled backslash today

    The simple reality is that airlines are flying far less capacity than they did pre-covid and yet ATC delays - which are handed out by the FAA - are skyrocketing.

    Just like everything this government gets its hand into, the outcome is higher prices for consumers...

    anyone that wants to assign blame needs to bookmark two pages
    nasstatus dot faa dot gov
    and
    flightaware dot com backslash live backslash cancelled backslash today

    The simple reality is that airlines are flying far less capacity than they did pre-covid and yet ATC delays - which are handed out by the FAA - are skyrocketing.

    Just like everything this government gets its hand into, the outcome is higher prices for consumers as airlines continue to have to cut capacity - initially due to their own staffing but ultimately will be due to the inability of the FAA to handle delays.

    With a government that is at war with fossil fuels, air travel will become more and more expensive and the reliability of airlines will continue to suffer as the FAA fails to do its part to staff the ATC system.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Tim Dunn for President!!!!!!!!!!!

      Let's all name Tim Dunn in our ballots.

      At least Tim Dunn can probably do something, not just be sleeping 18 months or add fuel to other people's burning fires.

  2. XPL Diamond

    I don't understand why one would look to the government to fix this. Not only do I not see the appropriate tools in the government's toolbox, but on-time records are public knowledge. If I were traveling this summer I would base my plans not around which airline is cheapest but rather which has the best operational record.

    When you buy a ticket, you are indicating what your priorities are. Some people prioritize cost. Others...

    I don't understand why one would look to the government to fix this. Not only do I not see the appropriate tools in the government's toolbox, but on-time records are public knowledge. If I were traveling this summer I would base my plans not around which airline is cheapest but rather which has the best operational record.

    When you buy a ticket, you are indicating what your priorities are. Some people prioritize cost. Others prioritize comfort and soft product. Still others like myself prioritize reliability, because i want to get to my destination without drama and get on with my work or vacation.

  3. Hoosier in Paradise New Member

    Relative to the FAA / Air Traffic Control piece of this, $1B of the allotted $5B in infrastructure spending for those shortcomings had started to be scheduled as of April. Thank you, Ben, for the usual thoughtful analysis.

  4. Jan Guest

    Great to see everyone here is optimistic about the outcome of this chat :D

  5. Creditcrunch Diamond

    Something on the same lines has been issued as a warning to U.K. airlines, they’ve been told to cancel summer flights now! Specifically the flights they know they won’t be able to operate over the summer period.

    1. Adam Simmons Guest

      BA did this some time back, whilst easyJet has been cancelling on the hoof.

      Why would any business suffer the reputational damage of trying to sell products which it can't deliver? From the UK perspective, Jet2 and RYR have performed well (hardly any cancellations and no last minute ones), whilst TUI and EZY have been disasters. Personally, I'd certainly not fly EZY for the foreseeable future.

  6. Alonzo Diamond

    Let's have a fireside chat inside the Delta Skyclub. Use your miles for a bottle of Dom P and let's talk about Spirit being apart of the new "Big 4". Ain't much gonna change, this is gonna be the summer from hell for domestic travel. Get used to it.

    1. TravelinWilly Diamond

      Meh.

      Nothing will eclipse United’s summer from hell in 2000.

      Nothing.

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      "Nothing will eclipse United’s summer from hell in 2000."

      You're setting yourself up for MAJOR disappointment, if you actually believe that....

    3. John Guest

      @ConcordePerson

      And how do youuuuuu know any better, pray tell dear lady?

  7. Steve Diamond

    "the government doesn’t actually have much leverage here, aside from just generally attempting to appear to stand up for consumers"

    Looks like people are starting to figure out this administration...

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      This administration?

      All administrations.

    2. Andrew Diamond

      Every executive administration, not just this one. Real power is with Congress. Which is why the vast majority of lobbying dollars head there.

    3. Eskimo Guest

      Politics are just like insurance.

      They are so damn complicated, consumer end up getting denied with everyone pointing fingers.
      The industry itself, getting fatter because of all those income and very little payout.
      Now they are fat enough to rig the system or collude with other industries.
      But they always say they have your back.

      @Steve points to the Sleepy Brandon, @Never In Doubt to the administrations, @Andrew points to Congress, even...

      Politics are just like insurance.

      They are so damn complicated, consumer end up getting denied with everyone pointing fingers.
      The industry itself, getting fatter because of all those income and very little payout.
      Now they are fat enough to rig the system or collude with other industries.
      But they always say they have your back.

      @Steve points to the Sleepy Brandon, @Never In Doubt to the administrations, @Andrew points to Congress, even we the people point at each other.

  8. AdamH Gold

    I think we annoys me more about the new spat of delays is the contagion effect of it all. It's not just that a single flight gets delayed because a plane needs to wait an hour for a mechanic (hey that happens), its that once that happens in the morning, the entire rest of the schedule for the day is already broken. You spread this out of a network of 1000s of flights, things quickly...

    I think we annoys me more about the new spat of delays is the contagion effect of it all. It's not just that a single flight gets delayed because a plane needs to wait an hour for a mechanic (hey that happens), its that once that happens in the morning, the entire rest of the schedule for the day is already broken. You spread this out of a network of 1000s of flights, things quickly spiral. There is just no slack in the airline's systems and its not just the planes themselves, its everything on the planes from pax making connections, bags, and of course the pilots/FAs needing to be where they need to be on time.

  9. George Romey Guest

    100% load factors, heavy banking of flights, summer weather-what could go wrong?

  10. Cajmo Guest

    One way to incentivize airlines to running trains on time would be EU 261 style stuff. Just saying.

    1. Steve Diamond

      Airlines would just raise ticket prices across the board to account for this new "expense"

    2. TA Guest

      I disagree. Airlines already charge the maximum they can to match supply to demand. A regulation like EU261 would increase the price floor that airlines are willing to sell tickets and could potentially prevent some new routes from being added, but I doubt it would affect pricing other than the deepest discount economy fares.

      On the plus side, airlines would be more incentivized to operate on time, not overschedule, and not cancel flights.

    3. Andrew Guest

      I'm curious, have EU airfare prices gone up much to account for EC 261? There's plenty of ULCCs offering cheap tickets where compensation would be disproportionately more than the ticket price.

    4. DCAWABN Guest

      And? The expense is that the airlines are then punished for failing to perform. And we should really stick it to them. Over and over again. They took millions and millions in dollars via bailouts time and again and yet nothing to show for it. Shitty performance. Shitty service. Shitty everything. It's time they be held to task. Maybe you're too cheap - and that's a lot of what's wrong with air travel today is...

      And? The expense is that the airlines are then punished for failing to perform. And we should really stick it to them. Over and over again. They took millions and millions in dollars via bailouts time and again and yet nothing to show for it. Shitty performance. Shitty service. Shitty everything. It's time they be held to task. Maybe you're too cheap - and that's a lot of what's wrong with air travel today is that it's a race to the bottom for pax's money and air travel is just Greyhound in the sky...as cliched as that is to say. But if I was guaranteed that my flight would operate as expected/promised by a contract of carriage that is legally binding by ALL parties, to include the shitty airlines, or I'd be due generous compensation for their failure then I'd gladly pay more. Start gouging the airlines for poor performance. If you don't want to pay, stay home.

  11. Big AL Guest

    Mayor Pete doing an outstanding job. What a man,

    Airlines, rail, road. the whole thing is a nightmare for 18 months. Now he wants a 'chat' on it.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      What do you expect when you take someone who's never worked directly in transportation, then place them at the pinnacle of responsibility as a political favor for being a good little team player, by dropping out of a race even though he had more primary votes + cash than you did, at the time.....

    2. Jeff Guest

      Mayor pete checked all the boxes this admin wanted. Like every other pick in the cabinet they forgot to check the boxes that matter; competent & qualified.

  12. John Guest

    We flew from SEA to ANC on Tuesday and SEA was extremely crowded and busy. So many people flying now. Fortunately our flight was on time and bags made it. Just hoping we have the same luck on Monday from ANC-SEA-DFW.

  13. Never In Doubt Guest

    It's Mayor Pete's airline pow-wow time!

    Ben's 100% on target with his analysis.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Never In Doubt Guest

This administration? All administrations.

3
Adam Simmons Guest

BA did this some time back, whilst easyJet has been cancelling on the hoof. Why would any business suffer the reputational damage of trying to sell products which it can't deliver? From the UK perspective, Jet2 and RYR have performed well (hardly any cancellations and no last minute ones), whilst TUI and EZY have been disasters. Personally, I'd certainly not fly EZY for the foreseeable future.

2
Eskimo Guest

Politics are just like insurance. They are so damn complicated, consumer end up getting denied with everyone pointing fingers. The industry itself, getting fatter because of all those income and very little payout. Now they are fat enough to rig the system or collude with other industries. But they always say they have your back. @Steve points to the Sleepy Brandon, @Never In Doubt to the administrations, @Andrew points to Congress, even we the people point at each other.

2
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