Flights have returned to normal after an unusual grounding and wave of cancellations on Wednesday—that may have consequences for several political careers.
- U.S. airlines faced an unprecedented computer issue on Wednesday, halting all departing flights, and delaying and canceling thousands of flights in the process, as the result of a computer issue, Reuters reports.
- This marks the first time since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that the FAA has purposely grounded all flights.
- The FAA reported on Thursday that the delays had ceased, and operations have returned to normal.
- The crisis has brought partisan social media condemnation against Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s crisis management over the course of several significant controversies in his term.
Why it’s Important
The airline industry is already still recovering from the system-wide collapse of Southwest Airlines over the holiday season, which canceled 16,700 flights and cost the airline $825 million. Wednesday saw 11,000 delayed and canceled flights.
“The FAA computer issue had prevented airports from filing updated safety notices that warn pilots of potential hazards such as runway closures, poor weather and construction, bringing flights to a temporary halt,” says Reuters.
The failure reflects poorly on the administration of Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who joined the Biden administration after an attempted presidential bid in the 2020 election. His term in the position has overseen several major crises, supply chain failures, union strikes, and Southwest cancelations.
The Political Fallout
These crises can’t all be laid directly at the feet of the transportation secretary, as many preceded his term in office, but reflect what Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) calls a “completely unacceptable and just the latest example of dysfunction” at Buttigieg’s agency. Former Ohio congressional candidate Nina Turner similarly noted that Democrats “need to come to terms that the DOT is not doing well.”
His being the public face of these crises may negatively impact his political career going forward, particularly his presidential ambitions.
“A modest Cabinet role has become a political albatross for one of the Democratic Party’s brightest young stars. Republicans have sought to make Buttigieg the face of the transport disruptions, while Democrats say his crisis leadership is proving his political mettle,” says Axios.
“There is no direct indication of any kind of external or nefarious activity, but we’re not yet prepared to rule that out. We need to understand whether this reflects a systemic issue, and what would be required so that there’s no single point of failure here. Glitches or complications happen all the time, but we can’t allow them to ever lead to this level of disruption,” says Buttigieg.