Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg hit back at criticisms after Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee raised questions about his whereabouts in the wake of winter storms that wreaked havoc across the country and caused Southwest Airlines to cancel thousands of flights.
Early Wednesday, December 28, Southwest announced it had canceled more than 2,500 flights, or 62 percent of its planned flights for the day and that it had preemptively canceled more than 2,300 flights, or 58 percent of the airline's scheduled flights, that had been slated to depart airports on Thursday, December 29.
Southwest's string of cancelations have opened the company up to federal scrutiny, and House Republicans have been quick to cast blame on Buttigieg for the crisis that has stranded tens of thousands of travelers nationwide.
In response, the official Twitter account for Republicans who sit on the House Judiciary Committee—whose online presence has long been under the stewardship of Ohio Representative Jim Jordan—posted the following tweet:
"Where's [Secretary Pete Buttigieg]?"
You can see the tweet below.
The tweet soon caught the attention of Buttigieg, who noted he'd been at work all along contrary to what House Republicans might suggest:
"Good morning! At the moment I’m on Capitol Hill, not far from your offices."
"We’ll keep getting results for passengers using our authorities & resources as an agency."
"If you’re calling for policies that would deepen those resources, please be specific - I’d welcome the dialogue."
You can see Buttigieg's tweet below.
Buttigieg's cool and measured response was praised by Twitter users.
The scrutiny of the federal government toward Southwest Airlines is not entirely unexpected when you consider that the airline has been at the center of travel controversies before.
In June 2021, as much of the world proceeded to open borders previously closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline faced relentless criticism for canceling flights for several days straight.
At the time, the airline said that an issue with a weather data supplier prevented the airline from safely flying planes. While that issue was eventually resolved, the spillover effects prompted the company to cancel a percentage of its scheduled flights, stranding travelers across the country.
Earlier this year, federal investigators with the United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC) released a report that claimed Southwest stonewalled Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigations into maintenance and piloting safety lapses, and criticized the FAA for failing to adequately oversee the airline, stating that senior FAA staff "mismanaged and interfered" with investigations "in the face of SWA’s intimidation tactics."