Virtually all of the U.S. airlines have made it known to Congress and the aviation industry of their desire to privatize the nation's air traffic control system.
Now American Airlines CEO Doug Parker is taking it to the business community and the public.
Parker appeared on CNBC on Friday to push the agenda to remove air traffic control from oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
"The operation would still be regulated by the FAA. It has nothing to do with safety whatsoever," Parker said. "What it's about is about being much more efficient and having much fewer delays, much lower flight times."
Removing air traffic control regulation from the purview of the FAA has been one of most divisive issues in both the aviation industry and Congress.
Almost all U.S.-based airlines are on board with privatizing ATC-as is the 14,000-member National Air Traffic Controllers Association-with the broad overview being that the FAA's Next-Gen program to upgrade the air traffic control system is moving too slowly, in large part because of yearly Congressional issues surrounding reauthorization and the inability to make long-term plans.
Not to mention issues with understaffing at major airports.
"Today to fly from DFW to Philadelphia is about 30 minutes longer than it was in 1979," Parker said, "simply because we have a system that hasn't kept pace with the rest of the world."
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President Donald Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao are both on record as saying they would entertain the idea, and Trump has even included it in his recently proposed fiscal year 2018 budget.
"That's the only way we believe, after years and years of working on this, that we're going to be able to get this kind of technology put in place," Parker said of moving ATC oversight to a non-profit company.
Delta Air Lines is the major U.S. airline pushing for the FAA to continue to administer air traffic control, mostly because of a perceived increase in costs to the airlines if the system is privatized.
"We've done everything to assure them that's not the case," Parker said of Delta's concerns. "We'll keep working on that."
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