US airport and airline executives today met president Donald Trump and White House staff to discuss airport infrastructure, traffic control, and industry regulations. But, by multiple accounts, there was no discussion of the most contentious issue at US airports in recent weeks: the Trump administration’s recent immigration order and the chaos it has spawned.
The president, reported Kevin M. Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International in a press briefing following the event, was especially focused on one point: “He said four times, ‘We need to rebuild America’s airports.'” Getting US airports to “catch up to the rest of the world,” in the words of Burke, was the main interest of Trump, who, according to him, showed a keen interest in the air travel industry. Since the president “flies a lot, he has his own jet,” Burke said, Trump has an understanding of the passenger experience in airports, which he wants to enhance—pointing to Singapore or Dubai as models the US should follow in terms of airport infrastructure.
The meeting also discussed modernizing traffic control, possibly by privatizing it (though the president didn’t necessarily endorse that), and improving security technology to speed up airport controls.
By all accounts, the meeting was cordial, with Trump even praising Delta, whose CEO Ed Bastian was in attendance. Trump said “Delta’s doing well,” despite having blamed the chaos following his recent immigration order on a Delta computer outage:
The administration’s executive order restricting refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries was not discussed—despite reports that the airline representatives would want to address the issue. Airlines have paid for the ban, having to refund tickets for passengers who weren’t admitted in the US.
During his press briefing, Burke said that the immigration order did not come up during the meeting with Trump. None of the airport executives or airline representatives raised it, and the issue was not broached by White House advisors or Trump himself. Penny Kozakos, a spokesperson of Airlines for America, the organization representing the largest US airlines, confirmed to Quartz that the issue was not discussed. Kozakos was speaking on behalf of Airlines for America’s president and members who were in attendance.