US Air Travel Numbers Continue to Improve

Would Fining Airlines Resolve Flight Delays and Cancellations?

It’s not a shocker to say the United States Government rattles its sabers and wields a lot of power, even on its home turf and even when it comes to travel.

The Department of Transportation has fined airlines for such things as deceptive television advertisements.


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The Federal Aviation Administration proposed a $4 million fine against Southwest Airlines as recently as two years ago for flying 44 planes and 21,000 flights with incorrect baseline weights.

The FAA has even fined passengers for their unruly antics in the air.

Now, with flight delays and cancellations an everyday occurrence due to pilot and staff shortages, the government is apparently taking a more active role in the way that airlines operate, begging the question: Would the implementation of monetary fines for delayed and canceled flights be enough of a motive for the airlines to resolve this dilemma more sooner than later?

At least one U.S. Senator thinks so.

In a scathing Twitter message, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) called out DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg and said the government agency should start fining airlines for every flight cancellation that carriers know won’t be fully staffed.

“All over this country, airline passengers are growing increasingly frustrated by the massive increase in flight delays, cancellations, and outrageously high prices they are forced to pay for tickets, checked bags and other fees,” Sanders wrote in his letter. “Thousands of flight disruptions have left passengers and crew members stranded at crowded airports from one end of the country to the other forcing them to miss weddings, funerals, and business meetings and ruining family vacations that have been planned for months in advance.”

It’s an interesting concept, although Sanders’ suggestion that airlines be fined a whopping $55,000 per passenger for canceled flights might be a little ambitious.

But the government is already on the case.

Last month, Buttigieg reached out to airline executives and took them to task for the numerous delays and cancellations plaguing the industry. That was right before an epic meltdown during the Juneteenth weekend.

Days later, Buttigieg threatened the airlines by saying the federal government has the power to compel carriers to increase staff. Specifically, the DOT has the power and authority to force airlines deemed to have insufficient staffing to hire more workers.

“That is happening to a lot of people, and that is exactly why we are paying close attention here to what can be done and how to make sure that the airlines are delivering,” Buttigieg said.

While that sounds like an interesting idea, some of it – much of it – is all talk. Sanders and Buttigieg must realize that a huge part of the ‘staffing shortage’ is actually a pilot shortage and, with all due respect to ground workers and baggage handlers, hiring a pilot involves far more training and is far more time-consuming.

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