Friday, February 10, 2017
Trump tells United CEO, other airline execs he wants to rebuild U.S. airports
By Ally Marotti
The Chicago (IL) Tribune
In a meeting with airline and airport executives from Chicago and around the country Thursday, President Donald Trump made one thing very clear: He wants to rebuild America's airports.
It was Trump's refrain in the White House Meeting, said Kevin Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International — North America. The chief executive of the airport owner and operator association recounted the president's comments later on a conference call with the media.
The president reportedly focused on enhancing the travel experience, an issue Chicago is attempting to tackle at O'Hare International Airport.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced last summer that airlines have agreed to build up to nine new gates, a move crucial to improving on-time performance. The $300 million cost is expected to be paid for with existing fees tacked onto plane tickets.
Emanuel's plans also include demolishing and rebuilding Terminal 2, which would cost billions of dollars.
Though Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans and Chicago-based United Airlines' CEO Oscar Munoz were in attendance, the city's plans weren't discussed.
Trump was interested, however, in the expected $4 billion redesign of LaGuardia Airport, said William Vanecek, aviation director at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and chair of the airports council.
Executives said Trump's refrain to rebuild airports was positive. The administration wants "to put their shoulder into helping," Burke said. However, it's still unclear where airports would find funding.
"He obviously wants to rebuild airports, but he wasn't very specific about where he wants to get the money," Burke said.
Airline executives also urged Trump to spin off air traffic control operations from the Federal Aviation Administration and place them under the control of a private, nonprofit corporation.
Airlines — with the notable exception of Delta — have complained that the FAA is taking too long to modernize the air traffic system.
Trump said he believes the system could work better if a pilot ran the FAA. The current administrator, Michael Huerta, a holdover from former President Barack Obama's administration, isn't a pilot.
Besides United, Trump met with the chief executives of Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue, executives from air cargo companies, and airport officials.