Pete Buttigieg Silent on Airline Crisis, Praises Indigenous Peoples’ Day

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on May 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. The majority of the briefing focused on the ransomwareattack on the Colonial Pipeline. More than three-quarters of gas stations in some southern U.S. …
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg remained silent the Monday after Southwest Airlines unexpectedly canceled over 1,800 flights, choosing instead to focus his message on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In his first tweet since last week, Buttigieg posted on Monday, “This Indigenous Peoples’ Day, @USDOT honors the history, culture, and achievements of Native Americans and recognizes our role in ensuring Indigenous people have ready access to safe, reliable transportation services.” 

Buttigieg’s focus on Indigenous Peoples’ Day aligns with the Biden administration’s effort to shift Columbus Day from celebrating Christopher Columbus toward an appreciation of Native Americans. According to USA Today, Biden became the first president to mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a presidential proclamation.

The tweet from Buttigieg is his first since this past weekend’s airline crisis, which resulted in more than 1,800 Southwest flight cancellations. The crisis has continued into this week, as the AP reported more than 360 flights were canceled on Monday and over 800 others were delayed.

Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Southwest cited “disruptive weather” as the reason for the mass cancellations, some speculated that the Southwest pilots staged a protest against the airline company’s coronavirus vaccine mandate. This speculation is fueled by a lawsuit the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) filed last Friday, as Bloomberg reported, which sought relief from a federal judge to “temporarily block the company from carrying out federally mandated coronavirus vaccinations until an existing lawsuit over alleged U.S. labor law violations is resolved.”

Many elected officials, pundits, and even Southwest passengers who had their flights canceled took to social media to show support for the purported workers’ strike.

Despite the mass cancellations and social media uproar, Buttigieg has not yet made a statement addressing the situation. The official Twitter account of the U.S. Department of Transportation has remained quiet since last Friday. However, Buttigieg’s silence did not go unnoticed.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) responded to the airline crisis on Twitter by saying, “Pete Buttigieg was completely unqualified to serve as Secretary of Transportation. But Biden still picked him. Now, Pete is absent during a transportation crisis that is hurting working-class Americans.”

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