COOL COMPETENCE: How Sec. of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is handling the Southwest Airlines fiasco

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Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is showing the GOP how it’s done in the aftermath of Southwest Airlines’ failures over the holidays that left thousands of passengers stranded at airports across the country.

“Where’s @SecretaryPete?” the House Judiciary GOP account tweeted, in a failed attempt to troll the former South Bend, Indiana Mayor.

“Good morning! At the moment I’m on Capitol Hill, not far from your offices.” Sec. Buttigieg responded.

And the Twitter ratio was brilliant.

While the account, which is run by soon-to-be Judiciary chair Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), was busy on social media, the Secretary of Transportation was busy doing his job.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sec. Buttigieg spoke to Southwest Airlines CEO, Bob Jordan, reminding them of the company’s responsibilities to not just its customers, but its workers as well.

“They provided commitments in writing – including Southwest,” the former Democratic presidential candidate told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “That they would go above the previous level of what you’d do to take care of customers with things like covering the cost if you get stuck, and you need a hotel or a meal. In addition to rebooking you to get you on your way.”

According to the BBC, Mr. Jordan agreed to Buttigieg’s request that  Southwest issue vouchers for hotel stays and other costs to passengers whose flights were canceled, automatically.

The country’s top transportation official vowed to hold Southwest accountable if it fails to meet the expectations they themselves agreed to.

Buttigieg also addressed the concerns of Southwest employees, who complained of longtime system issues within the company that went ignored for years – speaking with the pilot and flight attendant’s unions.

“Thank you @PeteButtigieg for taking the time to listen to our Union,” the union representing Southwest flight attendants, TWU Local 556, wrote.

Aviation tracker, FlightAware showed that nearly 20,000 flights were canceled since December 22nd, the BBC wrote.

Out of the 2,800 flights canceled on Wednesday – 2,500 of them are from Southwest Airlines alone.

In addition to stranding customers and families traveling to spend Christmas with loved ones, the low-cost airline fell under fire for its treatment of employees.

A leaked memo from Southwest Vice President Chris Johnson threatens employees with termination for refusing to work overtime hours as needed – raising questions of labor law violations.

Photo courtesy of @ruthschmidt.

The Department of Transportation posted a link to the agency’s Aviation Consumer Protection department on social media – which informs travelers of their rights.

It’s a user-friendly interface with links where customers can file an official complaint with the Department, and get information on traveling with disabilities, refunds, flight delays, and cancelations, what your rights are if there’s a tarmac delay, and what to do if you’re a victim of discrimination.

Thanks to the quick action and commitment of the Biden Administration’s Transportation Department, travelers impacted by the cancelations have a clearer understanding of what their rights as passengers are, and a vow from Sec. Buttigieg to ensure “Southwest meets its obligations to passengers and workers and take steps to prevent a situation like this from happening again,” the Department of Transportation wrote.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.