Fox News tag-teamed with fellow Murdoch outlet, The Wall Street Journal, to blame Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for airline delays.
Guest host Charles Payne promoted the anti-Biden administration message in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed and used it as fodder for Fox's own attack. He hosted travel journalist Francesca Page to help.
Payne began by asking what Page thought of the Journal editorial. Before she could answer, he added, “Golly, it’s going to take a couple of years to resolve this?”
“Well, you've got to keep in mind that aside from the bad weather, the airports have seen impacts from reduced staffing at critical air traffic control centers,” Page replied. “So, going into the summer, the FAA knew that this could be an issue. The lack of staffing almost system-wide impacted the air traffic on high passenger travel days. Coupled with weather, it's bound to create severe delays for travelers.”
Apparently, Page knew her role. She added, “But the problem is also that the transportation secretary didn’t originally even appear to be worried about how to handle issues with flight disruptions that are ultimately due to weather, or staffing, essentially leaving travelers with the state of what do we do and what should we prepare for as we enter into the summer.”
Payne did his part: “It’s not just, though, The Wall Street Journal. Last week, the CEO of United, really upset. He says when it comes to weather, particularly in Newark, where they have a lot of operations, he says the FAA has historically been able to manage without severe impact to our operations or customers. It just feels so irresponsible.”
Funny how they left out the airlines’ role in the mess. From Bloomberg:
The airlines aren’t blameless. As Covid-19 pummeled traffic, they received some $54 billion in relief from Congress, meant to cover payroll and prevent layoffs. Yet the industry’s workforce still shrank by an estimated 50,000 as the carriers offered buyouts, leaves of absence and early retirements. When post-pandemic demand rebounded more quickly than expected, they were slow to rehire staff, leading to repeated bouts of delays that have persisted into this year. A Government Accountability Office report blamed “factors within the airlines’ control” for soaring cancellation rates as the pandemic subsided.
United now says it’s trying to upgrade its crew-scheduling system and hire 50,000 more workers, although unions representing its pilots and flight attendants accuse it of an ongoing lack of investment in labor and facilities. After this latest fiasco, they would seem to have a point. ([United head] Kirby himself elected to avoid the mess entirely and fly private on June 28, a day when his airline canceled more than 750 flights.)
Furthermore, the problem started before Buttigieg’s tenure, which began in February, 2021. Bloomberg also noted that the FAA “has been struggling to hire competent workers — including air-traffic controllers — and upgrade technology for many years.”
None of that was mentioned by Payne or Page.
Also not mentioned? The steps Buttigieg is taking to address the problem. He discussed the efforts on Sunday’s Face the Nation.
From CBS News:
Buttigieg said Sunday the FAA is hiring 1,500 new air traffic controllers this year and another 1,800 in 2024, as well as working on staffing models to better address the issues. But he said staffing issues account for less than 10% of delays, although he added that he would prefer "that number is zero."
"Even though this isn't the number one cause or even the number two cause of flight disruptions, it is something that is very important to tackle and we're doing exactly that," Buttigieg said. "But there are things we can do to manage it more efficiently."
He said the FAA is using new technology to open more-direct routes "which means less flight time and ultimately can contribute to less congestion."
You can watch Fox News weaponize air travel problems below, from the July 5, 2023 Your World.