WASHINGTON — President Trump told airline and airport executives Thursday that he is interested in privatizing America’s air traffic control system and improving the nation’s airports and roads, which he called obsolete.

Trump also promised to roll back government regulations and said he will announce a plan in the next three weeks to reduce taxes on businesses. But he sounded skeptical about raising fees that airline passengers pay to fund airport improvements.

One issue was notably absent during the White House meeting – Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban travel to the U.S. from seven mostly-Muslim countries. Airline leaders had criticized the order, which remained on hold Thursday after a ruling by a federal appeals court.

Airline and airport executives who emerged from the White House meeting called it a positive session. Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told Trump that the best way to help airlines would be to “modernize the air traffic control system.” He complained that money spent on the system has not improved it. “I hear we’re spending billions and billions of dollars, it’s a system that’s totally out of whack,” Trump said.

Some airline executives and Republicans in Congress have proposed privatizing air traffic control because they say the Federal Aviation Administration has moved too slowly on modernization and would benefit by being removed from the uncertain congressional budget process. Other lawmakers oppose reducing Congress’ oversight of aviation, and business and private aircraft owners worry their costs will go up.

While Trump supported modernizing the air traffic system, he did not explicitly endorse privatization, said Kevin Burke, president of Airports Council International-North America.

Airport officials told Trump they’d like to raise the fee that airline passengers pay airports as part of their tickets so the money could help with modernization. Airlines oppose an increase, and Trump said he doesn’t like raising fees, participants said.


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