Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dallas Rep. Says Keep Wright or Close Love

Despite the fact that Southwest Airlines' Love Field headquarters is located in her district, Democratic U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas has thrown her support behind the anti-competitive forces at American Airlines who want to make sure the Wright Amendment stays in place so Southwest can't expand its interstate service from Love. She even goes so far as to call for closing Love Field if the Wright Amendment is repealed.

Why would a politician advocate closing the single largest economic engine in her home district? shows she recently received a $2,000 contribution from AMR's (parent company of American Airlines) PAC, and you can be sure she'll be handsomely rewarded for coming out against the Wright Amendment.

Johnson is also bringing race to the table, saying minority vendors at DFW Airport would be hurt by increased competition from Southwest at Love Field. However, this argument is somewhat disingenuous since there are also minority vendors at Love, not to mention those employed by Southwest. It's yet another wardist-style political slight of tongue designed to play off existing racial animosity in Dallas.

As it stands, Metroplex residents pay premium fares because of American's near-monopoly at DFW. While Southwest could move to DFW, the cost of moving their entire operation - headquarters and all - would be outrageously expensive. DFW's sprawl would also reduce the airline's overall efficiency. Southwest didn't sign the agreement to leave Love Field when DFW opened, and Love's existing flight restrictions ensures the airport will probably never pull a detrimental amount of traffic away from DFW.

What will definitely lower the Metroplex's commercial aviation prominence is if Southwest decides to move its headquarters. That's a real possibility if they can't grow interstate routes at Love Field, and cities like Phoenix and Houston would probably love to have the "Love" airline relocate there.

At the very least, Congress could compromise by allowing Southwest to fly from Love to Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee and Missouri. If independent research shows these flights pose a mortal threat to DFW Airport's continued viability, the (modified) Wright Amendment stays in place. If not, it goes away completely. That's a hell of a lot more reasonable than voting to close down Love Field.

I'm all for regulation that protects consumers, but the only thing protected by keeping the Wright Amendment in place is AA's bottom line.

UPDATE: Shortly after this story broke, it was revealed Johnson has blind trust investments in Hudson News retail concessions at both DFW and Love. Spokeswoman Lisa Hanna says having a stake in concessions at both airports renders her impartial. If that's the case, then someone needs to explain to me how closing Love Field wouldn't benefit Hudson News by allowing them to service the same volume of overpriced Advil-popping passengers with significantly less infrastructure.

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