Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian announced after a meeting of airline chiefs with President Donald Trump that the carrier plans to hire 25,000 people over the next five years.
Atlanta-based Delta has about 80,000 employees around the world, and hires regularly in some areas due to turnover. The 25,000 figure includes a combination of growth and backfilling attrition, but Delta did not specify the breakdown.
And, the hiring could be contingent on other factors, including an issue Delta is pushing for action on in Washington related to competition from Middle East carriers.
Bastian in a written statement released after the Thursday morning meeting of airline CEOs with Trump at the White House said the hiring would be done “with the support of a level playing field globally.”
Delta executives have been raising concerns about what they say is an un-level playing field with Middle East carriers that they say unfairly receive subsidies from their governments and fly to the United States.
Bastian called the meeting with Trump “a positive discussion about many of the major issues facing U.S. travelers, airline employees and the aviation industry, which is a vital economic engine for America.”
At the meeting, Trump told the group of airline CEOS: “We want the traveling public to have the greatest customer service and with an absolute minimum of delays.”
When Bastian introduced himself at the beginning of the meeting, Trump said: “Delta’s doing well.” And when told Atlanta’s airport is the world’s busiest, the president said he loves the state of Georgia.
Trump congratulated airlines at succeeding “despite the bad equipment that the airport gives you, in many cases.”
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said the top priority for helping airlines is to modernize the air traffic control system.
Major airlines have pushed to privatize the air traffic control system, though Delta opposes privatization of the system.
Bastian said he also looks forward to working with Trump, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others in Trump’s administration “on issues important to Delta, our employees and our customers.”
He added that Delta “has been leading the charge to expand and upgrade our nation’s airports, with extensive improvement projects planned and underway at major Delta hubs.”
Hartsfield-Jackson International, home of Delta’s largest hub, has begun a $6 billion plan to modernize and expand the Atlanta airport.
Airports Council International - North America president Kevin Burke said several airport representatives attended the meeting, and that Trump repeated multiple times, “We need to rebuild America’s airports,” which the airport group took as a positive sign of interest in further investment. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport officials did not attend the meeting.
“He said he would get the money, that he would figure out a way to get the money,” Burke said. “He wasn’t really specific in how he would get the money.”
The airport association has been pushing for an increase in the $4.50 cap on the passenger facility charge paid by airline travelers -- an increase that airlines have opposed.
Burke, in a conference call with reporters after the meeting with Trump, called the president “an aviation aficionado.”
“It’s clear that this is a gentleman who has done a lot of flying,” Burke said.
Also discussed during the meeting with Trump was reform of airline regulations and taxes, according to industry group Airlines for America.