Airline executives were preparing to meet with President Trump on Thursday to discuss issues including jobs and international competition, a meeting that comes as the on-again, off-again enactment of his travel ban has had them scrambling.
But even beyond the ban, executives and government officials expect Mr. Trump to be a disruptive influence on air travel. Some are concerned about an executive order seeking the elimination of two regulations for every new one enacted, which they say could have a negative effect on safety rules. They also await Mr. Trump’s thoughts on a proposal to privatize the air traffic control system, which has been run by the federal government since 1936.
President Trump has not taken a position on a House Transportation Committee proposal to turn over more than 300 air traffic control facilities and 30,000 employees to a private nonprofit corporation run by executives nominated by aviation industry participants.
The Federal Aviation Administration had to spend three years restaffing after the striking workers were fired, and the system was hit with a personnel shortage 25 years later when those replacement workers became eligible for retirement. Overtime and six-day work weeks have been the norm since that time in busy areas, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Controllers complained that had affected safety and morale.
While some airlines and the air traffic controllers association support privatization, not all F.A.A. work groups do. In size and complexity, the change would be even more difficult than in 1981, although the potential impact on safety has not been a significant part of the discussion.
The two-for-one rule, however, could threaten a longstanding process of proposing new aviation regulations based on problems revealed by accidents.
“There are some rules that need to be made,” said Tom Haueter, an air safety consultant and a former air safety director for the National Transportation Safety Board. A rigid formula that counts rules rather than considering their contents “does not create a safe situation,” Mr. Haueter said.
In the United States, nearly every action related to commercial aviation is circumscribed. Airplane and engine designs must be certified. Their manufacturing is inspected. Many more rules govern the airlines and the air space their planes occupy. Passengers have rules to follow, too, as any traveler can attest.
While F.A.A. regulations apply to any airline or airplane manufacturer operating in the United States, the impact is felt more broadly because other countries often use the F.A.A.’s rules when developing their own.
Still, the need for rules can be overstated, said Alex Wilcox, a founder of JetBlue and now the chief executive of JetSuite, a California-based airline. “The carriers are far more concerned with aviation safety than the F.A.A. is,” he said. “For us, it’s a matter of survival. If we crash, it has a worse effect on our brand and businesses than the F.A.A. We’ve got the most to lose.”
Of all the potential disruptions on the horizon, safety is unlikely to be a casualty, said John Gadzinski, an airline pilot and air safety consultant from Norfolk, Va.
“The world of commercial aviation is so cocooned within a large infrastructure of established practices, regulations and customs that it is almost immune from political firestorms that go on outside,” he said.
The accident rate for airlines in the United States has declined over the past century through efforts that began with improving the machines and expanded to improving human performance.
Creating a no-blame culture in response to mistakes is a safety concept now embraced in the United States and other countries. Mr. Gadzinski said Washington could learn from the experiences of the airline industry.
That was the message he took to Capitol Hill earlier this month. Mr. Gadzinski, a Republican, told his congressman, Scott Taylor, Republican of Virginia, that he worried about the confrontational atmosphere around the new administration. He said that he contrasted the political polarization in America with modern air safety programs that require cooperation and teamwork.
“The practice of demonizing and belittling is especially toxic to the world of aviation,” Mr. Gadzinski said he told his congressman. When the stakes are so high for the industry, learning from mistakes is important, he said.
It is possible that a personal brush with an airline accident could affect the administration’s views. Less than two weeks before the election, Mike Pence, now the vice president, was on an Eastern Airlines chartered flight that ran off the runway after landing at La Guardia Airport. The Boeing 737 skidded into a gravel bed designed to stop a plane’s momentum, and no one was injured.
That was an attention-getting event and one that will surely have an effect on the present administration, said Mark Dombroff, an aviation lawyer formerly with the Justice Department.
“The Trump administration is in that rare position,” Mr. Dombroff said. “All of a sudden you have the vice president who is actually involved in an accident. If that doesn’t sensitize you to issues of aviation safety, nothing does.”