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Trump considers air traffic control reform after meeting with airline CEOs

By Eric DuVall
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President Donald Trump holds a meeting with airline CEOs and aviation executives in the State Dinning Room at the White House in Washington on Thursday. Trump pledged to reduce federal regulations on the airline industry and improve infrastructure at the nation's airports. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/61bc4602c7c1826a15d3081a24d25ef8/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
President Donald Trump holds a meeting with airline CEOs and aviation executives in the State Dinning Room at the White House in Washington on Thursday. Trump pledged to reduce federal regulations on the airline industry and improve infrastructure at the nation's airports. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 9 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday signaled he may consider privatizing the nation's air traffic control system, calling it too expensive and "totally out of whack" during a meeting with airline executives.

The Federal Aviation Administration has long maintained control over air traffic control at the nation's airports due to the sensitive nature of the work and the government's desire to prevent private airlines from competing for space, potentially complicating travel time and creating a safety hazard.

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Many airlines, however, have said a private system would be more efficient, less costly and would reduce delays.

The leaders of several of the nation's top airlines met with Trump at the White House on Thursday. Trump praised the industry for its profits and commitment to safety and efficiency.

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Air traffic control was one of the topics broached, with Trump agreeing it is in need of reform.

"I hear we're spending billions and billions of dollars, it's a system that's totally out of whack," Trump said.

Additionally, the executives brought up a previous complaint, that nationalized airlines from the Middle East are more competitive than U.S. carriers because the nationalized carriers received government subsidies. They singled out Qatar, Etihad and Emirates airlines, saying the government subsidies they receive give them an unfair advantage over U.S. carriers in the region.

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Trump pledged he would review regulations on the airline industry and work to provide better infrastructure at the nation's airports.

The CEOs of Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska airlines attended the meeting, as did the CEO of shipping company FedEx. Notably, Doug Parker, the CEO of American Airlines and a supporter of Hillary Clinton in the election, was not in attendance, though the company said in a statement it was due to a scheduling conflict.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told the Dallas Morning News the meeting was a productive one for the industry.

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"We are very well-aligned on some very key topics: income tax reform, regulatory reform and especially growing our industry," he said.

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