Winter weather will be travel ‘challenge,’ Buttigieg warns

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned Tuesday that “winter weather will be a challenge” as the year-end holiday travel period is expected to be one of the busiest in decades. 

Buttigieg, speaking alongside FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, said the U.S. “may see some bad weather impacting travel around Christmas and New Year’s” and that the “FAA is working closely with airlines to plan for that possibility.” 

“Winter weather will be a challenge,” Buttigieg said. “It will certainly be a challenge in the next few weeks.” 

Buttigieg said officials receive “down-to-the-minute weather predictions from National Weather Service meteorologists and use those to inform exact arrival and departure routes across the busiest parts of the U.S. airspace.” 

OVER 115 MILLION PEOPLE EXPECTED TO TRAVEL DURING HOLIDAYS, AIRPORT TOTALS TO BREAK RECORDS, AAA SAYS 

But he added that “even during the busiest days of Thanksgiving, travel cancellations stayed below 1%. 

“In fact, so far this year — I don’t want to jinx us — but so far, 2023 has seen the lowest cancellation rate in the last five years, which translates to more people getting to where they needed to be, as expected,” Buttigieg said. 

The number of Americans traveling during the year-end holiday travel period this year will reach the second-highest level in more than two decades, according to AAA estimates released last week. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DAL DELTA AIR LINES INC. 41.15 -0.03 -0.07%
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS INC. 42.42 +0.09 +0.21%
AAL AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC. 14.30 +0.06 +0.42%
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 29.51 +0.54 +1.86%

The organization predicted that 115.2 million people will take trips at least 50 miles away from where they live during the period from Dec. 23 to New Year’s Day this year. That is a 2.2% increase over the prior year and the second-highest number since AAA started tracking holiday travel in 2000. 

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES REACHES $140M SETTLEMENT WITH DOT FOR 2022 HOLIDAY DEBACLE 

southwest airlines plane at gate

Yesterday, reports surfaced that Southwest Airlines will pay a $35 million fine as part of a $140 million settlement it reached with the U.S. Department of Transportation after the cancellations of nearly 17,000 flights left over 2 million travelers stranded over the chaotic holiday season last year. 

Southwest canceled about 16,700 flights over the last 10 days of December 2022. The meltdown began with a winter storm, but Southwest continued to struggle long after most other airlines had recovered, in part because its crew scheduling system became overloaded.  

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
HA HAWAIIAN HOLDINGS INC. 13.54 -0.21 -1.53%
SAVE SPIRIT AIRLINES INC. 15.98 -0.04 -0.26%
ALK ALASKA AIR GROUP INC. 40.19 +0.95 +2.42%

During its investigation, DOT said it found Southwest had violated consumer protection laws by failing to provide adequate customer service assistance, leaving travelers stranded at airports and hotels to scramble for other flights and accommodations. Many customers who called Southwest’s call center for help were left with a busy signal or were stuck on hold for hours.   

Travelers deal with weather cancellations at Dallas Love Field Airport

     

“So, I can’t speak for Southwest and, you know, we’re not telling them which IT system to buy,” Buttigieg said Tuesday. “We’re telling them not to let this happen again. And my sense is that they have learned that the hard way.” 

FOX Business’ Stephen Sorace and Aislinn Murphy contributed to this report. 

Read the full article here

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