Delta investigates pilot accusing Pete Buttigieg of flight issues

Delta Air Lines is reviewing reports that one of its pilots blamed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for a grounded plane in a passenger announcement.

Flights through Florida were forced to remain grounded on Monday due to widespread issues with an air traffic control system, according to Reuters. As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) worked to resolve the issue, it “slowed down the volume of traffic in Florida airspace”, causing delays for passengers across the United States.

Ground stops followed a tough few weeks for US air passengers, after a winter storm caused flight delays and cancellations across the country days before Christmas. Southwest Airlines, one of Delta’s main competitors, spent more than a week recovering from staffing issues after the storm.

Amid staff and passenger frustration, an Atlanta pilot reportedly blamed the problems on Buttigieg in an announcement to passengers Monday.

Above, a Delta Air Lines plane is seen next to an insert of Department of Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg. A Delta pilot is being investigated for allegedly making political remarks accusing Buttigieg of a technical glitch that grounded planes in Florida on Monday.
Mario Tama/Getty Images; Winning McNamee/Getty Image

However, his political banter didn’t land with everyone. A passenger, Stewart Lucas, called out the pilot for the politically charged remarks on Twitter, raising concerns that making political remarks over the loudspeaker was not appropriate conduct for the employee.

“@Delta it is not acceptable for the pilot of flight 2274 ATL-RSW to accuse @PeteButtigieg of a ground stop in Florida,” he tweeted. “A completely unacceptable political search has just been done twice at the door over the loudspeaker.”

Details of what the pilot said were not immediately made clear, but airlines have fired staff members in the past for making political remarks to passengers. A Delta spokesperson said Newsweek the airline was probing this report.

“Delta will review this allegation,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement.

Some social media users defended the pilotarguing that American citizens should be free to criticize government officials without recourse.

Christina Pushaw, spokeswoman for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, tweeted, “Yeah…it’s not China, Americans are allowed to criticize our government officials.”

While airline employees who criticize workplace politicians are protected from government prosecution for their comments under the US Constitution, private companies have the discretion to develop their own workplace conduct policies.

Airlines have already polled pilots for political rants

Airline employees have already been investigated for political purposes, which can be seen as alienating for customers who don’t share the same views.

In 2021, Southwest Airlines faced backlash after a pilot used the phrase “let’s go Brandon”, code for a crude insult against President Joe Biden, while signing off after greeting passengers on the system aircraft sound system.

Southwest apologized for the incident, saying it “did not reflect the Southwest hospitality that we are known for and strive to provide every day on every flight,” adding that the company would speak with the employee.

In a separate incident the same year, a South West pilot’s rant attacking the Liberals was picked up on a hot microphone before the plane took off. In addition to Southwest saying it was “dealing with the situation internally,” the FAA also investigated the incident, according to CBS News.

In 2017, a United Airlines pilot was replaced before takeoff after launching a political rant in which she said she had voted neither for former President Donald Trump nor for Hillary Clinton because they are both liars, among other concerning remarks, according to Insider.


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