Pete Buttigieg Nominated Transportation Secretary

Filed Under: Other Airlines

While this isn’t a political blog (even though you sometimes wouldn’t know it based on the comments section), there’s a nomination that has potentially big implications for the airline industry (and beyond).

Buttigieg to become transportation secretary

Pete Buttigieg has been nominated as Transportation Secretary by President-Elect Joe Biden.

38-year-old Buttigieg is the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and also ran for President in the most recent election. Buttigieg would be the first Senate-confirmed openly LGBT cabinet secretary in history.

Full disclosure — I’m a fan of Buttigieg. Not necessarily because he’s gay (though I think it’s awesome to see gay people represented in politics as well), but rather because I find him to be ridiculously intelligent, and I feel like that’s something that has been undervalued in politics for too long.

The Transportation Secretary under President Donald Trump is Elaine Chao, who previously served as Labor Secretary under George W. Bush.

Why should we care about the Transportation Secretary?

No, I won’t be writing about all President-Elect Biden’s nominations, so why this one specifically? Because the Transportation Secretary potentially has big power over the movement of people, including airlines.

Several times per week I write about decisions from the Department of Transportation (DOT), and that’s something that Buttigieg will potentially oversee.

Just look at all the airline related policies that fall under the purview of the DOT, ranging from emotional support animals, to the battle against Gulf carriers a few years back, to the approval of joint ventures and mergers, to the distribution of slots between China and the US.

The good news is that for the most part, DOT decisions seem to be fairly bipartisan, which is to say I haven’t noticed any extreme differences towards airlines based on the political party. For example, both the Obama and Trump administrations weren’t onboard with the rhetoric of the “Open Skies” debate a while back.

We’ve certainly seen airlines have proposals rejected under one administration, and then see them try their luck again with a new administration, so that’s certainly possible. But I can’t say I’ve noticed a huge systematic difference at the DOT depending on the party.

The role of the DOT goes way beyond airlines, of course, since airplanes aren’t the only form of transportation. We know that President-Elect Biden is a big fan of Amtrak, so I’ll be curious to see if investments in rail infrastructure change with the new administration.

Bottom line

Pete Buttigieg has been nominated as the next Transportation Secretary, replacing Elaine Chao. Virtually all of the government approvals that airlines need flow through the DOT, and I’m curious to see if there’s any change in direction under Buttigieg’s leadership.

  1. Congrats to Mayor Pete! Smart & talented guy, will look forward to seeing his path forward.

    Nice to have people leading key gov’t departments that they actually care about & want to improve, vs. dismantle & destroy…what a concept.

  2. You’re plenty political, hence the comments section. You feign impartiality but it’s easy to see past the veneer. Not criticizing at all, the way you run this blog is your business. But let’s be real.

  3. @david He did not say that he was apolitical, just that this is not a political blog. Certainly, there are times when we readers can discern his beliefs, but that different than writing articles impartially, which I think he does. Inevitably, there are times when travel issues are political, and I think that Lucky does a good job of presenting the arguments of both sides when that is the case.

  4. full disclosure I supported Mayor Pete for several reasons but one that stood out is his desire to look forward not backwards. So I have hopes that he approaches the big issues in transportation and infrastructure with that perspective in mind.
    Less emphasis on fossil fuel based transportation. Maybe follow the european approach where electrically powered high speed rail takes over the under 500 mile market.

  5. All upside IMO. He’s also a Navy veteran and the Coast Guard falls under the DOT. I’m sure he will do a great job and hopefully help rail and interstate infrastructure along with the airlines. It’s reassuring to see the adults back in charge in Washington.

  6. To be fair, I doubt he’s the first gay cabinet leader… Lots of these republicans seem to get their had caught in the cookie jar pretty frequently and statistically speaking it’s more probable that you’d win the lottery then to there never have been a gay cabinet leader 😉

  7. Great News!

    I think Pete would be terrific at any job Biden might give him. And I hope to see Pete elected president one day.

    Time to give the heave-ho to current Transportation Secretary; Moscow Mitch’s wife, Elaine Chow.

  8. He was by far the best player on the field during the primaries. Such a great mind. Which makes me wonder if he does not deserve better. But, I assume he will accept this to begin to establish a footprint in DC. And because he could never win a Senate seat being in Indiana.

  9. He’s great in interviews. Let’s hope he can move mountains in the land of bureaucracy. Look forward to see what he can do if he’s confirmed. Although I can’t imagine senators arguing over a transportation secretary post. They will save that for other higher profile confirmations.

  10. Help us understand why anyone’s sexuality matters. We should be looking for the best candidate for any job.

    Pete was the mayor of a small town. Maybe he’ll do well as Sec’y of the DOT but no one can really extrapolate anything from his experience in Indiana to a cabinet post with global responsibilities.

    Supposedly, Richard Anderson resigned as the CEO of Delta in order to be Hillary’s Transportation Sec’y – and that didn’t quite work out.

    Elaine Chao has deep transportation experience in both maritime and air transportation. She was on the board of Northwest.

    Depts. like Transportation and tend to be run by career bureaucrats that have served under multiple administrations. The Sec’y is just a figurehead.

  11. I read the headline and wondered what his qualifications were for Transportation Secretary. Glad Ben told me in the 2nd paragraph.

  12. Yawn. Rahm Emanuel would have been the better choice.
    Hope Pete does well, he does seem like a smart guy (among many other smart people), but doesn’t seem like he’s particularly qualified for this post.
    Don’t like it when people get spots based on identity politics. Best person please.

  13. As an Angelino I’m very glad Biden didn’t pick our Mayor Garcetti. Mayor Pete is a nerd and perfect for DOT, I just hope he can save public trans and build more trains(sorry plane people).

  14. Glad to see that Biden has decided to continue to Trump practice of appointing unqualified people to important government positions as a reward for doing favors for him, but, uh, in a good way.

  15. He doesn’t have much of a background in transportation issues, but he’s a smart guy, quick learner and probably knows when he needs to depend upon people who know more than he does. The downside is that he may be stuck in McKinsey mode and all the bad that it means for government organization and operational performance over the longer term.

    I do hope he does consider how to strengthen public ground transit options in suburban and even rural areas in parts of the US that voted for Trump.

    I also hope he becomes tougher on airlines when it comes to questionable airline business practices that are hostile to airline customers.

  16. The practice of minding your own business was once a bedrock principle of conservatism and I hope true conservatives will find their way out of the wilderness one of these days. People’s delectable kinks, not really any of government’s business.

    Pete seems the smartest and shrewdest politician since Bill Clinton: he has a bright future. I welcome his start in the big leagues. I’m guessing he’ll find his way to the presidency sooner or later.

  17. He is intelligent and good interviewee. However not sure if he has the necessary administrative experience. I mean being mayor of South Bend is one thing and Transportation Secretary is another

  18. Ric Grennal was first as far as I know and the fact that lucky and most average American doesn’t that is an attestant to msm selective cheering and refusing to say anything positive about the Trump admin

  19. He is so handsome and intelligent. I would’ve voted him for president if he were the candidate. He is much better than that fake women with fake laughing.

  20. @Tim Dunn bless your heart. Maybe if you were a mayor of a “small town” you would understand livable communities, multi-modal transport, and the environment. But then Buttigieg is just a “small town” mayor.

  21. I’m a fan of Mayor Pete too. He did so well in the early primaries that it was sad he dropped out just before Super Tuesday. At the end name recognition definitely helped Biden.
    As for Sec of Transportation, the only one I remember before Elaine Chao is Elizabeth Dole and how she mandated those red lights in the middle of the rear window of cars.
    I hope Mayor Pete does well in this new role and may it be a steppingstone to help his presidential aspirations for 2028 or 2032 (I’m just thinking Biden would run for re-election in 2024 or Kamala might be the Democratic nominee then.)

  22. “Buttigieg would be the first LGBT cabinet secretary in history, should he be confirmed by the Senate.”

    First “out” cabinet member.

    Also, he’ll make a great replacement for Mitch McConnell’s corrupt beard.

  23. I wish him well and I’m sure he will make a good representative of this vital and important role – he seems intelligent and hopefully will make a great contribution

  24. @A
    I actually live in a livable small town that is actually 40% larger than South Bend. Yes, we have public transportation, an airport, two interstates, rail….

    but I didn’t run for President or get a Cabinet post. And alot of people legitimately do ask how somehow goes from a small town mayor (310 or so largest in the US) to the Presidency or a Cabinet position. that is a legitimate question to ask of anyone in a position of significant authority, let alone the DOT.

    I’d be more interested in what Biden has charged Pete w/ doing.


  25. South Bend is certainly not big, but it’s not what I would call a “small town”. It’s the hub of a metro area that has 318,000 people. His Smart Streets infrastructure project in South Bend has been heavily praised, so he’s at least shown a willingness to push against backward thinking to improve a city and it’s infrastructure. Hopefully he can translate that to a national scale. This country needs some serious investment in mass transit and HSR. Just because you’re from a smaller city, and being mayor was your first political position, doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to do anything on the national level. I think he has the brains to grow into the role quickly, and to me I value that over a resume. People made the same arguments about Obama, and I think he did quite well.

  26. Mayor Pete’s appointment will groom him and prepare him for bigger and better things, and was obviously intended as such. He’ll have a lot of face time with senior leadership, will be empowered to do useful things, and learn the ins and outs of DC politics. I won’t be surprised to eventually heading communications/propaganda/PR — his frequent interviews over the summer were most enjoyable works of performance art. Pete smiled so very sweetly while sinking rhetorical shivs into his enemies again and again. America needs Pete’s intelligence, and I look forward to seeing what that young man can do.

  27. Mayor Pete is over qualified for the job. My guess is that Secretary of Transportation (55,000 employees, $80 billion budget) is about the same difficulty as Secretary of Agriculture (100,000 employees, $150 billion budget).

    Tom Vilsack was Secretary of Agriculture under Obama. He was soooooo bored with the job. Morning coffee. Slow newspaper reading. Lunch. Skim through some reports. Afternoon nap. Crossword puzzles. Go home.

    After a few years, he told Obama he was quitting out of boredom. No, said Obama. Obama convinced him to stay and assigned him extra work to keep him busy. Produce a report on the opioid addiction problem, history, possible solutions, etc. Ok, Vilsack said. He stayed 8 years. Recently, Biden nominated him again for Secretary of Agriculture.

    Teachers and the media brainwash the public into thinking that the President has the hardest job in the world. Cabinet members nearly as hard. Hard, hah! So easy, so bored. (I admit during a war, the Secretary of Defense has work cut out). Secretary of Agriculture is for lazy people. I suspect the Secretary of Transportation is about the same. They could do more, but they don’t.

  28. Great news and totally agree with you Ben… mayor Pete was by far the most intelligent guy, so inspiring and I keep on dreaming that in 2024 he’ll be on the ticket as VP canditate with K. Harris!

  29. Pete Buttigieg is such a phoney. Articulate and all, but no substance. His speeches sound like they’re AI-generated. They sound like the AI mined Obama’s speeches and some Ted Talks. He’s precisely the kind of “woke” corporate type that has been making the Democratic Party ineffective as a opposition party for decades. Nothing much of substance for working people.

    Buttigieg will probably do fine as Transportation Secretary. He might be a little more friendly to large corporate interests than what is probably optimal. I’m more concerned with how this will elevate his political status further. He’s bad news, in my opinion.

    There is a pretty comical meme group called ‘Lord Pete Buttigieg’s Casual Imperialist Wine Cave’. Google it:

  30. Zero mention of any reason *why he would be good for the post*.

    Biden handing out spoils of war to corporate centrist candidates, and nada to the progressives who actually rallied & got him into office.

    Pete was against Medicare for all, that’s a pass.

  31. I am just so excited about Mayor Pete being the secretary of transportation. I read both his books and this guys is just so smart. He is definitely building up his credential to reach a higher office. About policies, I don’t expect dramatic changes and Buttigeg runs pretty centrist on many of these economic issues. The airline industry will need help but it depends on Americans’ willingness to be vaccinated. I just hope that there will be no more airline merger in the near future. I am so proud of Mayor Pete, and it is way better than Elaine Chao.

  32. Corrupt biden is installing every single establishment democrats as cabinet as expected meanwhile the real thinker like Yang or Gabbard get shoved…

  33. Jeff,

    I find the Trump-supporters’ claims that the Democratic Party is “ineffective” and that “the small town mayor” is unqualified for the job of US DOT Secretary to be quite the joke after we had the Greatest Loser Of All Time Trump thrust upon the country by the rabid right wing wackos in the Republican Party that can’t even manage to get and then keep the US House of Representatives under their control despite decades of Republican efforts to try to gerrymander and voter suppress Democrats into a permanent national minority.

    Democrats have won the larger bulk of the American citizens’ votes in at least the last four US Presidential elections. Trump is literally the greatest loser of all time when it comes to US elections. And the GLOAT-er-in-chief is going out of the White House like he came in: as an oversized whining baby who behaves like a petty, nasty, manipulative, attention-seeking “housewife” on some reality TV show or another.

  34. He’s far from qualified for this role. He has no experience running anything much at all, and zilch at a national level . He needs to get some experience on the field, as someone with great potential for high office, but this is a poisoned chalice…

  35. By all accounts he’s a very smart guy and as far as politicians go trustworthy. But he’s a mayor of a medium size city. What does he really know about transportation? Wouldn’t you look for someone that has direct industry experience in rail, airports, a large public transportation system, airlines?

  36. Grenell- first gay cabinet level (never confirmed by the US Sentate, but Pete would be the first gay cabinet position—-there is a difference.

  37. My comments have nothing to do with tribal politics but as a native of his part of the country. Mayer Pete has a wealth of experience dealing with South Bend Regional airport, the South Shore Line and a stretch of US 31. All, A-list transportation hubs to be sure. South Bend has been slowly decaying since I was born. Perfect choice if you are looking for someone with zero accomplishments in the area of transportation secretary. At least he will not be as corrupt as the outgoing secretary.

  38. During the primaries, Mayor Pete became the preferred choice among wealthy white liberals, and the last choice among minority voters of every income bracket and education level.

    And let’s be real, this is Biden basically putting Buttigieg in the basement for the next for years to prevent him from challenging Kamala Harris for the presidency in 4 (or 8) years.

  39. @Tim Dunn: “Help us understand why anyone’s sexuality matters.”

    Let me guess…it’s also racist to talk about racism. Right?

    It’s not that hard. We make a point of lifting up groups that have historically been denied rights and opportunities. When those groups have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, we can stop lifting them up.

    And yes, I’m aware of all the “arguments” against what I’ve just said. They are beyond tiresome.

    As for Pete Buttigieg, he’s brilliant and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do at the DOT.

  40. @Khristian
    The word “cabinet” or “Cabinet-level” doesn’t appear in your link.
    Grenell may have been the first openly gay cabinet-level appointment, but Buttigieg will the first openly gay cabinet secretary

  41. To all the people talking about Richard Grenell: What Ben said was that Buttigieg would be the first openly gay Cabinet secretary. Grenell was acting Director of National Intelligence. While this position is currently (at the discretion of the President) considered “cabinet-level”, it’s the DNI is not the secretary of a department. He or she is not in the presidential order of succession.

    Also, Grenell was never confirmed as DNI, nor was his name even submitted to the Senate for that position. He was only acting DNI. He was appointed acting DNI on February 20, 2020, and John Ratcliffe was appointed actual DNI on February 28, though he wasn’t confirmed until May 21 or sworn in until May 26.

    So: Not the first Cabinet *secretary*, nor actually confirmed to the position.

  42. What a dumb pick. Guy has no experience. Probably a worse pick ths. Betsy de vos in education. His only experience is mayor of a land locked city, with a tiny airport, no trains and basically no interstate.

    At least the mayor of Chattanooga would have has expredince with 2 interstates

  43. Important clarification that some of y’all missed:

    Buttigieg will be the first *Senate confirmed* out LGBTQ+ cabinet secretary.

  44. Frankly I am disappointed. Don’t get me wrong – I do think that Pete is extremely intelligent, articulate and quite likeable. However, I am not comfortable with the idea that one should be selected for a US Cabinet position because he or she is smart. In fact, I am sure we can all agree that there are plenty of people who are smarter than Pete (whether that be measured in IQ terms, GPA, degrees earned, languages spoken, etc.).

    I do think that our President can be a generalist but to have the greatest chance of success, both domestically and on the world stage, he should chose specialists who have a track record of achievement in the disciplines for which they are selected, in this case transportation. My suspicion is that this was the peace offering that Pete was given for gracefully exiting the race and putting his support behind Biden.

    I don’t discount Pete’s intelligence. I am not arguing that Pete is any better or any worse than our current Secretary of Transportation or any before. This shouldn’t be about clearing the swamp, and I would hope that it is about more than providing opportunities to historically marginalized groups (I am a gay male who voted for Biden, for what that is worth).

    This should be about picking the person who can do the job best. It is sad that our tribal identity and politics trump our ability to objectively discuss and debate why someone might or might not be the best choice. It would be refreshing to have open discourse and debate on issues/topics like this.

  45. Nobody is suggesting he was chosen because he was LGBT; Lucky is just pointing out that he happens to be a gay man, which we haven’t seen a lot of in top positions.

    Also, sexual orientation is not a “kink” any more than Bush, Clinton, Reagan, etc choosing to marry a woman is a “kink.”

  46. He is not the first gay cabinet member. Rick Grenell was but he is a Republican so probably doesn’t count to you.

    Buttigieg could not run a city. He probably can’t fix a pothole so I have low expectations of him running all transportation in the US. Stick to travel Ben or at least get your facts straight.

  47. Why is it I am a boomer that is suppose to hate everything, but somehow doesn’t give a crap about labels? I could care less if a cabinet secretary is married to his emotional support burro. Can the nominee do his job. Side question Being a white male boomer, if I stated that I was glad that a white boomer like Biden got elected. would that be considered racist? If so please explain how your excitement for a gay cabinet member isn’t racist.

  48. As a Briton, I’m amused by people saying that Mayor Pete (who I thought was the best of the candidates at the outset) is unqualified for public office because he only ran a small area with 300K people in it. Donald Trump had zero experience other than being “rich” and being a continual business failure – he managed to win a lot of votes. At least Pete has a wish to make the lives of other people better. Let’s hope he does well.

  49. Buttigieg would be the first openly gay, Senate confirmed Cabinet Secretary. Richard Grenell served in an acting capacity of a “cabinet-level” (NOT Cabinet) post for 3 months. Cabinet posts start with the words “Secretary of…” (except for the Attorney General who would otherwise be called the Secretary of Justice). Grenell was Senate confirmed for one job: Ambassador to Germany, and officially remained in that role while he was serving as acting DNI.

  50. It’s almost like all the Trump supporters don’t understand he had a rotating cast of “acting” (aka temporary, non-confirmable) people in key roles, by design

  51. Thought he was being nominated for the ambassador to China. Seems this kind of thing keeps changing. Your comment about the blog not being political but some of the comments. Just stick to the topic “points and miles.” Posts like this have nothing to do with it.

  52. Seat 1C
    Last time I checked Being anti LBGTQ is akin to being a racist. I will be sure to let my friends in that community know that you corrected me.

  53. @Dan,

    Last time I checked Being anti LBGTQ is akin to being a racist. I will be sure to let my friends in that community know that you corrected me.

    I disagree with that statement. You can disagree with views/lifestyles, etc on LBGTQ, but still accept and respect at the same time. Same goes for politics, in my opinion. There used to be a time when people could have a discussion without fear of getting in a fight, and this is applicable to both sides of the spectrum. If Pete ends up doing a damn good job, good for him. I don’t think him being openly gay hurt the overall picture, either. I’m not looking at him as the first openly gay, Senate confirmed Cabinet Secretary. I’m looking at him as the next man up to fix a slew of issues long needing corrected in that department.

  54. Hmm 4 years and the most qualified individuals possible are appointed to posts that suit their specific talents. People tough on the tough problems, not afraid to do what had to be done. Find a vaccine in 8 months, when every CNN and MSNBC hack forward fact checks it as impossible.

    Biden appoints someone who on the surface seems polished and on target, yet could never seem to fill the potholes in his little town in Indiana. Great choice for Transportation. Not.
    I hope the best but am currently popping corn so I can watch what happens next.

  55. @Dan Your statement is a load of nonsense. I have never seen anyone equate sexuality and race the way you do. Neither should ever be taken into account whenever a decision is made about people, who they are, or what they are capable of. Discriminating against someone because he/she is gay is wrong, but is different from discriminating against someone because he/she is black, white, or whatever. Both are wrong but aren’t the same…

  56. Seat1C Any discrimination against anyone is wrong and regardless of what label they have its the same. A human being was wronged.

  57. His sexuality should have no bearing on the decision to hire him either way. That’s the way it’s suppose to work. You are chosen because of your skills, background, experience, education, etc. Now saying that I’d bet money that if this man was straight he would not have been chosen. He has zero experience in public transportation.

    Yes he may be very smart and polished but the job should go to someone that is equally smart and polished yet has direct either industry or government experience.

  58. @dan I agree that no-one should be discriminated against so let’s just agree on that. All the best.

    Pete is still 100% more qualified to be a world leader than Donald Trump…

  59. @Seat 1c If you think the Donald is not qualified please show me how a person who never had a job other than agitator is elected president?

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