| WASHINGTON/NEW YORK
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK Feb 9 U.S. President Donald
Trump lamented what he called an out-of-date U.S. air traffic
control system on Thursday, but also criticized current
modernization efforts as the "wrong system" and too expensive.
"I hear we're spending billions and billions of dollars,
it's a system that's totally out of whack," Trump told a meeting
of airline and U.S. airport executives, referring to the air
traffic control system.
Those attending the White House meeting included the chief
executives of United Airlines Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc
, Southwest Airlines Co and JetBlue Airways Corp
The Government Accountability Office said in a 2016 report
that the United States "is generally considered to have the
busiest, most complex and safest ATC system in the world."
Air traffic is handled in the United States by the Federal
Aviation Administration. The agency is spending billions to
implement "NextGen," a system that would utilize satellites to
monitor aircraft instead of radar and make other changes. The
Transportation Department's inspector general said in a November
report that the FAA has invested over $3 billion in NextGen
programs since 2007, but has faced implementation challenges.
"I hear the government contracted for a system, that's the
wrong system," said Trump. "It's way over budget, it's way
behind schedule and when it's complete it's not going to be a
The FAA did not immediately comment on his remarks.
Gary Kelly, chief executive of Southwest, told Trump that
"the single biggest opportunity for aviation is to modernize the
air traffic control system."
"We have spent billions of dollars on air traffic control
modernization, but it's not making any meaningful progress,"
Kelly said when Trump opened the floor for comments.
One of Trump's election campaign promises was to improve
U.S. infrastructure and he talked about a $1 trillion
infrastructure plan over a decade.
The FAA handles more than 50,000 flights a day and more than
700 million passengers each year. It spends nearly $10 billion a
year on air traffic control funded largely through passenger
user fees, and has about 28,000 air traffic control personnel.
Since 1987, several countries have moved responsibility for
air traffic control from national civil aviation authorities to
independent self-financed providers. There has been debate in
the United States on whether the country should restructure its
air traffic control.
Trump also addressed U.S. carriers' concerns about trade
agreements with foreign carriers.
"I know you're under pressure from a lot of foreign elements
and foreign carriers," said the Republican president, who has
promised to renegotiate or scrap trade deals between the United
States and other countries that he sees as unfair.
But Trump said he wants to make sure foreign carriers also
"They come with big investments, in many cases those
investments come from their governments, but they are still big
investments," he said.
Heads of the three largest U.S. passenger carriers -
American Airlines Group Inc, United and Delta - have
sought to pressure the new administration into denouncing U.S.
Open Skies agreements with the three major Middle Eastern
carriers, which they accuse of having been unfairly subsidized
by their governments.
The three airlines, Qatar, Etihad and Emirates, have denied
Another point of contention is an order signed under
departing former President Barack Obama granting flying rights
to Norwegian Air International, which U.S. airlines and unions
have said will undermine wages and working standards.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe in Washington and Alana Wise in New
York; Writing by David Shepardson; Editing by Frances Kerry)