Delta, long an opponent to privatizing the U.S. air traffic
control (ATC) system, appears to have softened its opposition to the proposal.
"Yes, we are at the table. We are working
constructively with [House transportation committee] chairman [Bill] Shuster,"
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said of Congress' leading privatization proponent during
the carrier's earnings call Thursday.
Bastian went on to say that Delta isn't philosophically
opposed to the push to move ATC management from under the purview of the FAA.
But the carrier wants to make sure that the system is managed efficiently.
"We are in full support of the president's agenda to
invest and modernize the system," Bastian said.
His comments were consistent with the lower profile Delta
has kept on the ATC issue this year, even as privatization has gained the
support of the White House, and as Shuster's transportation committee voted
late last month to approve privatization as part of this year's FAA
But they represent a departure from Delta's historical
stance as a vocal opponent of privatization. In October 2015, Delta cited its
opposition on the issue as a leading cause in its decision at that time to pull
out of the industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A), which has worked
closely with Shuster on crafting his privatization policy.
While proponents of privatization say that it would help
fast-track the replacement of the nation's current radar-driven ATC system with
the GPS-based Next Gen system, Delta has disagreed. The bureaucratic process of
transferring ATC management would actually slow the process, the carrier has
Bastian's seemingly softer comments on privatization came as
Delta reported its first increase in unit revenue in 2-and-a-half years. The
measure -- defined as an airline's per-seat income per mile flown -- is
followed closely by investment analysts.
Delta's passenger unit revenue increase of 2.5%
year-over-year in the second quarter is a strong indication that ticket prices
are on the rise.
Nevertheless, Delta saw its net income drop 21%, to $1.22 billion
as a 3% uptick in revenue failed to offset a 9% increase in expenses. A 9% jump
in wages due to new labor agreements as well as an 18% rise in fuel costs drove
the cost increase.
Delta's second-quarter revenue of $10.79 billion fell short
of analyst expectations by $30 million, according to the website Seeking Alpha.
The carrier's earnings per share of $1.64 missed
expectations by 1 cent.
Delta stock was trading at $54.13 just after 12 p.m. Eastern
Time, down 2.43%.