Delta is investigating a pilot for making anti-Pete Buttigieg comments

Delta Air Lines is investigating allegations that a pilot used a message to passengers to blame a grounded plane on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Flights all over Florida had to remain on the ground on Monday because of major issues with the air traffic control system, Reuters reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) worked on finding a solution, but not without setting restrictions on the traffic entering Florida airspace, leading to delays across the US.

The grounding of Florida flights came after a period of Christmas chaos as severe weather prompted delays and cancellations in the thousands. Southwest Airlines was hit the hardest, taking more than a week to recover from its staffing problems.

On Monday, a pilot in Atlanta is reported to have blamed the problems on Mr Buttgieg in his message to passengers.

One of the passengers, Stewart Lucas, tweeted his criticism of the airline, arguing that political messages were not appropriate for a pilot.

“@Delta it is not okay for the pilot of flight 2274 ATL-RSW to blame a Florida ground stop on @PeteButtigieg,” he wrote in a since-deleted tweet, per Newsweek. “Completely unacceptable political dig just made twice at gate over loud speaker.”

In addition to the tweet, the account later appeared to also have been deleted.

While specific information regarding what the pilot said wasn’t immediately available, airlines have previously let employees go for political statements, Newsweek noted. A spokesperson for Delta told the outlet that they’re looking into the allegation against the pilot.

A number of social media users defended the pilot and argued that staff should be allowed to criticize public officials.

“Yeah... this isn’t China, Americans are allowed to criticize our government officials,” the press secretary for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Christina Pushaw, tweeted.

Americans are protected under the constitution to make political statements but companies can make their own policies about how staff can speak in a workplace setting.

Airline staff have been investigated in the past for making political statements. In 2021, Southwest was lambasted after one of its pilots said “let’s go Brandon” – rightwing code for “f*** Joe Biden” – as he greeted passengers via the intercom.

The airline said it “was not reflective of the Southwest hospitality for which we are known and strive to provide each day on every flight”.

In another incident in 2021, another Southwest pilot was heard on a hot mic lambasting liberals before the plane took off.

The airline said it was “addressing the situation internally.” CBS News noted that the FAA also investigated the issue.

A pilot flying for United Airlines was replaced before takeoff in 2017 after she slammed both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, calling both of them liars, Insider reported.