Buttigieg: It Wasn't a Mistake to Give Billions to Airlines that Can't Provide Service Because They Pushed People into Early Retirement
On Tuesday’s broadcast of the Fox News Channel’s “Your World,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated that, despite receiving billions to keep people employed, airlines pushed “a lot of their pilots and experienced crews into early retirement.” Which, while it technically didn’t break the terms of receiving the money, “what these buyouts and retirements did was they left these airlines unprepared to service those routes and now that’s coming back to bite the entire system.” But defended the spending by stating, “I don’t think it was a mistake to keep the U.S. aviation sector in business.” Buttigieg said, “I was very concerned with what happened over the Memorial Day weekend, got the airlines together, asked them what steps they were taking and anything that we could do collaboratively to see improvements by the July Fourth holiday travel weekend.
The good news is, this last travel weekend went better than Memorial Day did in terms of delays and cancellations. We saw an improvement to the tune of about 10%.” Buttigieg added, “So, we saw about 3% of flights canceled. In a normal year, over that travel weekend, you’d want to see the number really below 2. So, it’s still higher than it should be, a number of issues contributing to that.” He later stated, “Look, tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer support went to these airlines for the purpose of keeping people in their jobs. And part of the idea was, if we keep people employed, that means that we’ll have that airline sector up and running for when the demand comes back. Now, the demand has come back faster than most people thought possible, part of a general return of demand and spending in our economy that happened much more quickly than expected. Of course, that’s a good thing. But the airlines have to be prepared to service the tickets that they sell.” Buttigieg added, “Here’s where the money went: It went to keep people on the job and prevent people from being laid off and furloughed. So, the way the bill was set up, it said you can’t fire anybody. Now, here’s what happened: While they complied with the bill in that technical sense, you still saw the airlines guide a lot of their pilots and experienced crews into early retirement. And so, that didn’t violate the terms of all this taxpayer money that came to them. It said you can’t fire people, early retirement’s a little different. But what these buyouts and retirements did was they left these airlines unprepared to service those routes and now that’s coming back to bite the entire system.” Later, host Neil Cavuto asked Buttigieg if airlines “wasted that money?” Buttigieg responded, “Look, when that money went out, when the Rescue Plan passed, one of the first things I heard was that flight attendants and other airline workers were told that they could tear up their furlough notices. I don’t think that was a waste of money. I think that was a very good thing. Many of these airlines, if not all of them, might have completely collapsed and gone out of business. We sometimes forget, I think, in the chatter, just how close this economy came to going off the brink, and that was definitely true for the airlines. So, look, I don’t think it was a mistake to keep the U.S. aviation sector in business. I do think the airlines that accepted all of this funding need to be able to service the routes that they’re selling tickets for.” Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett.
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