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DOT prepares for busy Memorial Day holiday: ‘This weekend will be a test of the system’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Millions of Americans are expected to fly this holiday weekend, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expecting more than 51,000 flights on Thursday alone.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) said it is expecting to see passenger levels we haven’t seen since before the pandemic.

“This weekend will be a test of the system,” said DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Buttigieg held a press conference on Tuesday and said airlines have made significant improvements in on-time performance over the last few months.

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This follows last year’s travel nightmares that left thousands of people stranded due to cancelations and delays.

Buttigieg pointed to changes underway to try and ensure smooth travel for passengers this upcoming weekend

In New York, Buttigieg said airlines are now allowed to use larger airplanes with more seats.

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“In Florida, where believe it or not commercial space launches are now happening often enough that it can affect airline on-time performance, we are engaging the space sector to keep more of their launch windows and the accompanying closures clear of peak travel times,” said Buttigieg.

When it comes to staffing shortages, Buttigieg said the FAA is in the process of hiring more air traffic controllers to keep up with the growing demand.

Our Washington News Bureau asked Buttigieg about efforts the DOT is making to work with airlines to address on-going pilot shortages.

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“It’s not about lowering the bar. It’s about helping to get more people get an opportunity to do the work and then clear that bar,” said Buttigieg. “There’s some work that FAA can do to encourage people to go into these career fields… I’m confident the airlines can meet their staffing needs but it’s not going to be overnight.”

The DOT has also proposed a change that would require airlines to compensate passengers for flight delays or cancellations that were under the airline’s control, but that is expected to take a while before it could be approved.

“DOT is doing its part and airlines need to do theirs as well and when they don’t, we’re here to enforce passenger rights and hold airlines accountable,” said Buttigieg.

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