During a report on the start of the summer travel season that kicked off with Memorial Day weekend, CBS News interviewed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about concerns over air travel delays as over 7 million people are expected to travel through US airports the holiday weekend.
CBS News reported that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipated over 7 million travelers during the Memorial Day holiday.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby predicted that this year’s holiday weekend will be the busiest in more than a decade.
Kirby also voiced concerns over the challenges due to air traffic control staffing, which he described as the number one issue for the industry as it enters the summer travel season.
Secretary Buttigieg told CBS News that Memorial Day will likely “test” the system. He said the delay and cancellation rates last year reached “unacceptable proportions,” adding that it will be important not to let that happen again.
CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave brought up Buttigieg’s previous criticisms last year over the staffing issues at US airlines and noted that Air Traffic Control continues to suffer staffing issues this year, asking Buttigieg why these issues haven’t gotten fixed.
Buttigieg said that while his department would “own anything that’s under our control,” the staffing issues at Air Traffic Control are only “5 percent of the issue.” He said Transportation is hiring and staffing up. He argued that it was the airline industry that was much more responsible for the cancellations and delays, but added that after his department “really put that pressure on them” last year, the industry has “made improvements.”
According to the Department of Transportation, during the first three months of the year, the cancellation rate for US airlines remained below 2 percent, which is a vast improvement to the disruptions last summer that led to more than 45,000 cancellations.
CBS News reported that the TSA is bracing for this to be a record-setting summer for air travel.