‘Perfect example of incompetence’: Buttigieg probing ‘unrealistic scheduling’ of airlines amid shortage of pilots, staff

Pete Buttigieg rides to the rescue as the United States looks down the barrel of another decade of flight delays and cancellations due to massive staffing shortages at airlines.

(Video Credit: CBS News)

The airline industry is suffering a catastrophic shortage of 32,000 commercial pilots, mechanics, and air traffic controllers, according to CBS News. Ironically, that shortage is purportedly due to policies put in place by the Biden administration and implemented by incompetent US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The shortages deepened during the pandemic due to many being fired over not complying with COVID mandates. There was a travel surge following the end of the pandemic and things have not returned to normal in the flight industry, they’ve only gotten worse over the last two years.

Experts believe it will take years to train new airline professionals. Buttigieg is blaming the shortage on attrition and retirement but that didn’t seem to be an issue pre-pandemic. Pilots are mandated to retire at age 65 and air traffic controllers at age 56.

Add to that the fact that airlines massively cut back on their routes and laid off thousands of workers during and after the pandemic and you see the mess that was made. Given the airline industry’s and the federal government’s heavy-handedness during the pandemic, many employees just decided to take early retirement or leave the industry altogether. As travel picked up after the pandemic, there simply were not enough employees to handle it.

Instead of reflecting on regulations and policies put in place since Biden took office that are hamstringing the industry, Buttigieg has announced that his office will rigorously investigate the airlines for “unrealistic scheduling,” which involves listing more flights than carriers can safely accommodate.

There’s definitely gaps in places,” Buttigieg stated. “The system is just uneven right now.”

CBS News asked Buttigieg if his office should be holding airlines accountable and telling them not to schedule flights when there’s not enough staff to fly them and Buttigieg vowed to go after them.

“If an airline is knowingly flying an unrealistic schedule, there are going to be consequences,” Buttigieg commented.

“We have active investigations underway right now with regard to that,” he claimed. “We take that very seriously because when you sell a ticket to a paying customer and you make a profit off of that, you better be ready to do everything in your power to service that ticket. And we’re also going to hold you responsible for what happens if you can’t.”

“If you look at the delays, for example, that America experienced through last year in the summer of 2022, a lot of that was driven by these companies not having the staff that they needed,” Buttigieg asserted. “This is not something that’s going to be worked out overnight. It took years to get this way.”

According to CBS News, the airline industry is short approximately 17,000 pilots. Wichita State University emeritus professor Dean Headley noted that airlines are only able to train about 1,500 to 1,800 pilots each year. The training itself can take two years or longer with a price tag of over $100,000.

He pointed out, “Some of the predictions I’m hearing is that the pilot shortage won’t be resolved until 2032 or something like that.”

Due to the mandatory retirement age of 65 for pilots, aviation consultant Oliver Wyman is predicting that the industry will come up short of 24,000 pilots by 2026.

CBS News is also reporting that the industry is short about 12,800 certified trained mechanics. Boeing is reporting that the US will need 178,000 mechanics to meet the demand with a requirement of over 600,000 worldwide.

“This is the big unsung shortage that nobody talks about,” Kathleen Bangs, a spokeswoman for flight tracker FlightAware, commented according to the Daily Mail.

“Most people don’t understand that about half of all airline maintenance is done overseas. So we outsource a lot of that maintenance, and I think it’s going to be challenging. We have to figure out a way — how do we attract young people to become mechanics, which are critical, but also at the same time they’re outsourcing more and more of their work?” she asked.

The training and certification of mechanics can take about 18 months to two years to complete. Wyman is forecasting there could be a shortage of 18,000 mechanics.

The airline industry is also short on fully-certified air traffic controllers. They have a shortage of 3,000 currently and the retirement age of 56 will likely need to be revisited.

A June 21 report by the US Department of Transportation’s Inspector General noted that in 20 of 26 critical control towers, staffing fell far below the Federal Aviation Administration’s own minimum 85 percent threshold. One tower in New York City was at only 54 percent of its required staffing.

During four days in June, 31,850 flights were delayed which amounts to one-third of all flights nationwide, according to the Daily Mail.

Another 6,346 scheduled flights were canceled which amounts to one in every 17 being nixed.

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