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Buttigieg warns bad weather may impact holiday travel

<i>Win McNamee/Getty Images</i><br/>Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (L) and FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker speak during a news conference at Ronald Reagan National Airport December 19
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (L) and FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker speak during a news conference at Ronald Reagan National Airport December 19

By Pete Muntean, CNN

New York (CNN) — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is warning that bad weather could disrupt holiday air travel.

“We may see some bad weather around the holidays,” Buttigieg said, alongside FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker during a press conference at Reagan National Airport outside Washington, D.C.

“Winter weather may be a challenge, and it will certainly be a challenge in the next few weeks,” Buttigieg said.

The FAA has opened military airspace over the holidays and is cooperating with the commercial space industry to limit private launches. It has opened 169 new East Coast routes to keep traffic moving smoothly.

Buttigieg stressed that 2023 has seen the lowest commercial flight cancellation rate in the last five years and airlines performed admirably over the Thanksgiving travel rush, but he said he still wants to see the number of delays come down.

He told reporters that airlines can’t control weather, but that there’s a “tipping point” where there are additional cancellations and delays that the airlines can control. Buttigieg said he wants to hold them accountable for those disruptions.

On Monday, the Department of Transportation fined Southwest Airlines $140 million for its massive 10-day-long meltdown that started last December 21 and led to the cancellation of 16,900 flights, stranding two million passengers.

Newly installed FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said his focus has been air safety since starting the job eight weeks ago. The agency has been repeatedly criticized for the shortage of roughly 3,000 air traffic controllers.

“We know we need more air traffic controllers and are working hard to hire them,” Whitaker stated.

Whitaker announced in early spring that the general public will be invited to apply to the FAA air traffic control training center in Oklahoma City.

Buttigieg also noted that the threat of a government shutdown in January “will imperil all the progress we’ve made” on bolstering air travel.

“That will stop training and hiring that will have impacts and will lead to disruptions in air travel,” Buttigieg said. “I’m hopeful we get the support we need from Congress.”

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