Buttigieg announces airline inquiries. Will refunds follow?


A plane approaches for a landing at the Miami International Airport on Dec. 10, 2021. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Frustrated flyers may soon find some relief. 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced Sunday the conclusion of 10 investigations and the launch of more investigations into airlines that not only canceled flights but failed to give passengers refunds.

Buttigieg made the comments during an appearance on Fox News after a week of flight cancellations and delays.

“We’ll collaborate with airlines when they’re ready to take steps that are positive and proactive,” he said. “Whether that’s improvements in pay that are helping with hiring, or flexibility and customer service; we’re also going to enforce passenger and consumer rights.”

Buttigieg also addressed the pilot shortage as airlines are experiencing nearly pre-pandemic levels of demand for air travel, many are still struggling to restaff following widespread layoffs during the pandemic.

“And this is an issue we’re seeing across the aviation sector, across the transportation sector at large … the importance of having competitive pay, great job quality, so that we can bring in and keep the people that are going to be needed to power America’s transportation sector.”

While there have been reports of a pilot shortage, one pilots union told NewsNation staffing shortages aren’t actually an issue. The real problem, the union said, is airline mismanagement. The union even went as far as saying the pilot shortage is “made up.”

“What we are currently experiencing is a failure by the airlines to adequately plan for the increased travel demand,” the Airline Pilots Association said. “This is not a labor-created problem; it’s an airline mismanagement issue … The false narrative about pilot supply is being used to lobby dangerous changes to aviation safety standards,” the statement went on to say.

The investigations announced by Buttigieg will look into airlines that have failed to refund passengers for cancellations.

According to the Department of Transportation, passengers are entitled to a refund for any of the following reasons: 

  • Canceled flight
  • Schedule change or significant delay
  • Change in class of service 

If passengers are looking to get their money back for a canceled flight, experts say the best bet is to go through your credit card company — not the airlines. 

Buttigieg also spoke about fining airlines, but it remains to be seen how long it will take before customers see any changes directly from the airlines.

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