Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Monday that travel infrastructure has improved since the country saw flight cancellation spikes and other strains this summer but that there’s still more to do to get the sector ready for the looming holiday travel surge.
"We’re definitely in a much better place, by the numbers, than we were this summer ... but I do think, as we get ready for Thanksgiving and then the winter holiday travel season, we’re not out of the woods yet," Buttigieg said on "NBC Nightly News," speaking with host Lester Holt.
“There’s a lot of catching up to do in the system as it works its way through some of the profound disruptions that took place during the pandemic. I think we're on the right track, but there's more to do.”
The U.S. faced significant transportation sector struggles as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and demand for airline travel started to stretch back toward pre-pandemic levels, with tens of thousands of flights canceled and delayed this summer.
According to data from the Department of Transportation, around a quarter of all flights across June, July and August were canceled or delayed 15 minutes or more. Around 8 percent of flights were delayed more than an hour.
Buttigieg said he’s urged airlines to “make sure their schedules are realistic” and work toward increasing staffing and pay for pilots.
“Early in the summer, we saw unacceptable levels of cancellations and delays. Now, part of that is the result of demand returning, people buying tickets as the economy came back, and that’s good news, but the airlines have to be ready to meet that demand,” the Transportation secretary said.