Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is under fire from the left after widespread problems at Southwest Airlines over the holiday weekend and this week, The Hill reported.
Buttigieg said in an interview this week: "We've never seen a situation, at least not on my watch, with this volume of disruptions, so this is going to take an extraordinary level of effort by Southwest. And we will mount an extraordinary effort to make sure that they're meeting their obligations."
Many progressives expressed dissatisfaction with Buttigieg for not doing more to prevent the crisis.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., told The Prospect on Thursday: "Buttigieg needs to make clear that he has the authority to go after the airlines for unfair and deceptive practices. He needs to lay out a framework for what the consequences will be for canceled flights, understaffing, and misrepresentations to passengers."
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted on Wednesday: "Southwest's flight delays & cancelations are beyond unacceptable. This is a company that got a $7 billion taxpayer bailout & will be handing out $428 million in dividends to their wealthy shareholders. @USDOT must hold Southwest's CEO accountable for his greed and incompetence."
Journalist David Sirota, editor of the political magazine Jacobin, said in a newsletter that "for months, state law enforcement officials of both parties have been sounding alarms about airlines mistreating their customers. But because of a four-decades-old federal preemption law, those officials cannot take action to protect consumers, even as airlines have benefited from billions of dollars of government support, and even as federal regulators have refused to use their power."
Sirota added: "We also request that Secretary Buttigieg impose fines on airlines that delay or cancel flights for reasons that have nothing to do with weather. Secretary Buttigieg must also use his existing power to make sure airlines provide full and prompt refunds when they cancel flights."
A Department of Transportation spokesperson told the Hill that DOT "has issued the largest fines in the history of the consumer protection office this year — helping to get hundreds of thousands of people hundreds of millions of dollars back."
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