President Donald Trump welcomes members of the airline industry to a meeting at the White House on Thursday. Delta CEO Ed Bastian is just to the left of Trump in this photo. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Photo: Win McNamee
Photo: Win McNamee

Delta to hire 25K, CEO meets with Trump

Delta Air Lines plans to hire 25,000 people over the next five years, its CEO said after a meeting of airline chiefs with President Donald Trump on Thursday.

Atlanta-based Delta has about 80,000 employees around the world, and hires regularly in some areas due to turnover. The airline did not say how much of the 25,000 figure would be driven by growth vs. normal turnover.

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.

CEO Ed Bastian in a statement released after the Thursday 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.”

» Meet this requirement if you want to become a Delta Air Lines flight attendant

Delta executives have long complained about what they say is an unfair advantage for fast-growing Middle East carriers, which they say receive subsidies from their governments that support expansions to markets including 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.”

Channel 2's Justin Gray reports.

At the meeting, Trump told the 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.” 

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 is to modernize the air traffic control system. Most major airlines have pushed to privatize the air traffic control system, though Delta opposes it.

Bastian in the statement also said he 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, Delta’s home hub, has begun a $6 billion project to modernize and expand.

Airports Council International - North America president Kevin Burke said Trump repeated multiple times, “We need to rebuild America’s airports,” which his group took as a sign of interest in further investment. Hartsfield-Jackson officials did not attend.

“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 pushed for an increase in the $4.50 cap on the passenger facility charge paid by airline travelers — an increase that airlines have opposed.

Also discussed during the meeting with Trump was reform of airline regulations and taxes, according to industry group Airlines for America.

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