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.
Mayor @PeteButtigieg is a leader, patriot, and problem-solver. He speaks to the best of who we are as a nation.
I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because he's equipped to take on the challenges at the intersection of jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 16, 2020
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.
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.