United Airlines’ CEO said airlines are selling seats for flights they can’t staff — but Buttigieg hasn’t acted on state officials’ demand that he crack down.

by Rebecca Burns and Andrew Perez, The Lever

The recent holiday travel meltdown wasn’t a fluke or a one-off — cancellations will continue because airlines routinely sell tickets for flights they know they may not be able to staff and operate, the chief executive of United Airlines told investors yesterday. The stunning admission from the highest reaches of the airline industry confirms a warning sent by state attorneys general to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg prior to the December travel meltdown.

However, Buttigieg — the nation’s top regulator of the airline industry — has not used his power to crack down on the problem, as those state officials have demanded.

In unusually candid comments to company investors, United CEO Scott Kirby said ongoing cancellations among competitors are happening because the airlines are advertising schedules they can’t actually fly.

Pete Buttigieg standing in front of his husband looking upward. Wearing a white button down shirt with a thin blue tie. Presidential Candidate for 2020 May 15 2019 Los Angeles grassroots fundraiser

“There are a number of airlines who cannot fly their schedules,” he said. “The customers are paying the price. They’re canceling a lot of flights. But they simply can’t fly the schedules today.”

Referencing the December travel meltdown, he added: “What happened last year, is what I think is going to happen next year,” adding that his own company’s service was far more reliable, thanks to investments in staffing and technology.

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