Pete Buttigieg has taken aim at the long call wait times that many passengers are experiencing when they try to contact their airline and have demanded carriers do better.
The 40-year-old Transporation Secretary and former military officer said on Thursday that airlines “must provide responsive customer service support” when passengers are faced with sorting out delayed or cancelled flights.
“The only thing more frustrating than a flight disruption is not being able to get anyone on the phone to help sort it out,” Buttigieg wrote on Twitter. “Airlines must provide responsive customer service support when passengers need help.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation has witnessed consumer complaints about airline service skyrocket by more than 320 percent in April compared to the same month in 2019.
Nearly a third of complaints concerned refunds and the unwillingness of some airlines to promptly repay customers when their flight is cancelled. A further 30 percent of complaints were directly linked to how airlines dealt with flight cancellations and delays.
In April, Spirit recorded both the highest rate of cancellations and the lowest on-time performance rate amongst all major U.S. carriers. Despite its recent woes, however, Delta Air Lines faired better in April, achieving an on-time rate of more than 81 percent.
The Atlanta-based airline has, however, issued a rare systemwide travel waiver for the July 4 weekend, allowing passengers to change their flights with zero change fees and no fare difference.
The move comes as Delta chief executive Ed Bastion apologized to frequent flyers for the delays and cancellations that have plagued the airline in recent months. A spokesperson says the airline is “working around the clock to rebuild Delta’s operation while making it as resilient as possible to minimize the ripple effect of disruptions”.
Travel waivers are normally reserved for severe weather events and only passengers traveling within the affected geographic area can take advantage.
To add to Delta’s woes, thousands of off-duty Delta pilots took part in pickets at airports across the United States on Thursday to protest protracted contract negotiations.
They claim they are working record amounts of overtime but chronic “mismanagement” is resulting in continued delays and cancellations.
Earlier in June, Buttigieg demanded airlines proactively draw back their schedules to a level they could confidently deliver rather than cancelling or delaying flights at short notice.
The DOT has blamed overly ambitious airlines for many of the issues facing consumers, but carriers have started to point the blame at Buttigieg’s door, saying air traffic control delays under the FAA’s watch are a major cause of some flight delays.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.