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Buttigieg to ‘extremist Republicans’: don’t ruin Thanksgiving travel

By Jake Beardslee · November 20, 2023

In brief…

  • Buttigieg warned GOP threats of shutdowns or budget cuts could derail air travel improvements.
  • Recent years saw lowest cancellation rates in 5 years and millions more reaching destinations.
  • FAA pledges to enable safe holiday travel but needs funding from Congress.
  • Buttigieg said aviation progress is threatened by some in Congress.
Transportation Secretary Buttigieg credited the Biden administration for air travel improvements but warned Republican proposals to cut funding and shut down government could reverse progress ahead of the busiest Thanksgiving travel period ever.  Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America/Wikimedia

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had strong words for “extremist Republicans in Congress” ahead of the busy Thanksgiving travel period, warning their actions could disrupt recent air travel improvements.

Buttigieg said at a Monday press conference that “in just two or three years, we’ve gone from people wondering whether the U.S. aviation sector as we knew it would survive to a mountain right now of record demand and record work going on to meet that demand.” He credited the “Biden economic recovery” but warned progress is “not guaranteed.”

“Every time extremist Republicans in Congress bring us to the brink of a government shutdown, it threatens to stop the momentum that we built around training and around protecting customer rights,” Buttigieg stated. He added that Republican proposals to cut DOT and FAA funding “would have to freeze hiring new staff” and “disrupt the progress that we’ve made.”

Buttigieg called it “striking” that some officials seem ready to make air travel delays “a partisan issue” yet also “cut funding for air traffic control.”

This Thanksgiving week is projected to be the busiest ever for air travel, with 30 million passengers expected through Sunday. Buttigieg said 2023 so far has seen the lowest airline cancellation rate in five years.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said nearly 50,000 flights are expected Wednesday alone, surpassing 2022. “We will be working around the clock to make sure passengers get to their destination safely,” he affirmed.