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(FreedomWire.org) – Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is under fire from fellow Democrats for flight delays and cancellations that have paralyzed the nation’s airports, wrecked holiday travel plans and caused Americans undue financial stress.

Progressive lawmakers, in particular, say Mr. Buttigieg needs to do more to rein in airline companies that have taken billions in public subsidies since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s time for the Transportation Department to impose massive fines on poor-performing airlines,” said Sen. Bernard Sanders, a self-described socialist from Vermont.

In an email to supporters, Mr. Sanders called on the White House and Mr. Buttigieg to require airlines to refund passengers for flights delayed more than an hour. For flights delayed longer than that, Mr. Sanders said the Department of Transportation should fine airlines $55,000 per passenger.

“Thousands of flight disruptions have left passengers and crew members stranded at crowded airports from one end of the country to the other forcing them to miss weddings, funerals, and business meetings and ruining family vacations that have been planned for months in advance,” said Mr. Sanders.

Ahead of the Fourth of July, more than 1,700 flights were canceled on Sunday alone, while 23,900 were delayed, according to FlightAware. Airline giants like United and Delta said the problem arose mainly because of an inability to properly staff flights.

Mr. Buttigieg responded to the melee by taking to social media on Sunday to urge passengers to be smart and consider accepting airline miles, rather than cash, for delayed or canceled flights.

“Sometimes an airline will offer you points or miles as compensation, but you are entitled to a cash refund when your flight is canceled,” he tweeted. “When deciding whether to accept miles, it’s helpful to know their value, which varies, but often is estimated at 1 to 1.5 cents per mile.”

Fellow Democrats say that Mr. Buttigieg holds at least some responsibility for the problem and should be doing more than just giving travel tips.

“The Transportation Department’s incremental response so far has been lacking the urgency, imagination, and boldness to meet the moment and needs of the American people,” Rep. Ro Khanna, California Democrat, wrote in a letter to Mr. Buttigieg ahead of the holiday weekend.

(FreedomWire.org) – The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), the nation’s largest flight attendants’ union, says it expects the Biden administration will continue to extend its mask mandate for air travel beyond the current March 18 deadline.

The association, representing 50,000 workers, shared the news in a statement with Bloomberg.

“We have every expectation that the mask mandate will be extended for the near term,” the AFA said in a statement to Bloomberg.

“The conditions in aviation are the same. Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine,” the statement added.

“It’s unclear when a decision about the federal mask requirement will be announced. The prior extensions were announced a few weeks ahead of the expiration date. The current deadline of March 18 falls during spring break for many schools and universities across the U.S., and a change in policy then could cause confusion or disruption during the historically busy travel period,” the Bloomberg report observed.

On Tuesday, a TSA spokeswoman noted there has not yet been an announcement to further extend the mask mandate.

“If there is a change to halt or extend the mask requirement, we will make an announcement,” she said in an email, according to The New York Times. “As of now, nothing new to share.”

Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit last week against the Biden administration regarding its mask mandate for airports and airlines, claiming it’s time to “strike down” the requirements. The Daily Wire previously reported:

Paxton filed the lawsuit alongside the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) on behalf of Republican Rep. Beth Van Duyne. The case was filed against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Director Rochelle Walensky, Chief of Staff Sherri Berger, and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

“Biden’s repeated disregard of the individual liberties of Texans is not only disrespectful to the U.S. Constitution, it is also troublesome that any president thinks they can act above the law while hardworking Americans standby,” Paxton said in a statement.

“President Biden cannot continue governing through executive edicts. Now is the time to strike down his administration’s air-travel mask mandate. I’m proud to stand alongside my friend Congresswoman Van Duyne and her counsel at TPPF to protect Texans’ liberty and the rule of law,” he added.

In December, Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked whether he believed there would be a point when Americans do not need to wear masks on airplanes.

“I don’t think so,” he replied at the time.

The interview followed a December report by two airline CEOs pushing back on mask requirements.

“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment. It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting,” then-Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said, according to a CNN report.