US President-elect’s nomination of Elaine Chao to be Department of Transportation Secretary will likely be an uncontentious nominee with the Senate.

Chao has a reputation as a hard worker who holds everyone to high standards, but is pragmatic. Here’s how the next DOT Secretary can use those skills to be a positive influence for American airlines, their passengers, the greater air transport industry and the US economy:

•Most critical and potentially most significant of all, modernize and transform the US air traffic control system. Chao probably represents the single biggest opportunity for the US ATC system to finally move out of its analog, antiquated and inefficient trap and into the 21st century with all the advantages that airlines want, controllers want, and passengers will benefit from. What the US air transport system needs is a separate, not-for-profit ATC system that would boost capacity and the US economy.

•Immediately scrap the ridiculous new “competition rules” that the White House and DOT recently proposed for US airlines. These proposals, which range from defining what constitutes a “delayed bag” to broadening requirements to small and regional airlines to file huge amounts of operational data and statistics – at huge cost to them but to no benefit for the passenger – are classic examples of government interference in the operations of businesses that know far better than Washington what their customers want and how best to deliver.

•Revisit and throw out most of the “on-time” performance government fines and threats that hang over airlines. For the most part, these have only served to force airlines to pad out their scheduled block times, further adding to the ATC system’s inefficiencies. And those fines do nothing for any of the passengers that were on a severely delayed flight. Put some common sense into the system.

•Don’t micromanage airlines or tax and fee them to death. High taxes on air tickets have one effect: they dampen demand for air travel, which in turn has a negative effect on GDP, to which airlines are a significant contributor. 

•Demonstrate full support for Open Skies policy, secure but open borders that permit free movement of people and trade, and continued momentum in the restoration of US commercial relations with Cuba and Iran. 

There lies the path to a healthy US airline and air transport supplier industry that can grow, compete, enter new markets and invest in products that will better serve the traveling public.