Months After Buttigieg Promised To Hold Southwest 'Accountable,' Airline Delays Hundreds of Flights

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
April 18, 2023

Four months after transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said he would hold Southwest Airlines accountable for mass flight delays, the airline ordered a ground stop, meaning flights not already in the air cannot take off, delaying at least 1,820 flights across the country.

The Tuesday disturbance was due to the failure of a "vendor-supplied firewall" that led to the loss of operational data, CNN reported. The Federal Aviation Administration tweeted at 10:36 a.m. that Southwest requested a "pause" on its departures. The airline resumed service just before noon.

Buttigieg came under intense fire in December when Southwest faced a massive system meltdown that led to 16,700 flight cancellations, nearly half of its schedule, between December 20 and 29.

More than two dozen House Democrats wrote a letter to Buttigieg in January demanding the transportation secretary penalize Southwest Airlines for the cancellations. "We believe much more needs to be done," the lawmakers wrote. 

Buttigieg claimed in December that he "made clear" to the airline’s CEO "that our department will be holding them accountable for their responsibilities to customers."

The secretary said he would hold Southwest to account to "make sure that this can’t happen again."

Tuesday's incident is the latest transportation crisis to take place under Buttigieg's watch, two months after he faced bipartisan criticism for his slow response after a train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, causing a chemical spill. But Buttigieg has directed his agency to focus on racist highways and roadways. Polling found the majority of Americans want him to quit the role.