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Airliners Express Mixed Support For Trump's Call To Privatize Air Traffic Control

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Airliners Express Mixed Support For Trump's Call To Privatize Air Traffic Control

Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE: DAL) long opposed the privatization of air traffic control, claiming that such a move would prompt 20- to 29-percent price hikes in air travel and disrupt present progress toward improvements.

“Any effort to separate the ATO [Air Traffic Organization] from the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] will create a distraction that will set back these efforts for years,” Capt. Steve Dickson, senior vice president of Flight Operations, wrote in 2016.

Mixed Feelings?

But in the face of defeat, management now sings a different tune. Without directly endorsing President Donald Trump’s privatization plan, Delta conceded to political authority.

"Regarding current calls for ATC reform, Delta looks forward to working with the Administration and Congress on our shared goal of modernizing U.S. airspace,” Delta said in a statement. “We remain committed to working together to identify ways to reduce delays, improve efficiency, and enhance airline performance while maximizing safety and minimizing costs."

The sentiment shift leaves the Trump Administration with few industry dissidents.

The greatest objection may now come from American Airlines Group Inc (NASDAQ: AAL), whose CEO, Doug Parker, recently advocated for an ATC turnover to nonprofit management.

Meanwhile, United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE: UAL) vaguely backed federal decisions to modernize without commenting on the method of privatization.

"We support the modernization of Air Traffic Control and will fully review any proposal put forth by the administration that improves upon the current system,” a United spokesperson told Benzinga. “Flight delays are costly to our entire economy, and we need the most efficient and modern air traffic control system in order to run the most reliable airline for our customers."

And without reservation, Southwest Airlines Co (NYSE: LUV) CEO Gary Kelly campaigned overtly for privatization.

Taylor Cox contributed reporting.

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