Friday, June 16, 2006

Love on a Longer Leash?

We’ve come a long way from the days when Fort Worth mayor Amon Carter brought a sack lunch whenever he had to go to Dallas so he wouldn’t have to spend any money there.

Yesterday, Dallas mayor Laura Miller and Fort Worth mayor Mike Moncrief held a joint news conference announcing a compromise agreement that could eventually end the Wright Amendment restrictions limiting mainline jet service out of Dallas’ Love Field. The agreement would limit nonstop service out of Love to nine states (Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas, Missouri) for eight years, then the Wright restrictions would go away.

In the meantime, “through-ticketing” would be allowed immediately. This means you could fly Southwest from Love Field to Oakland, but you’d have to make a stop in one of the aforementioned nine states. The agreement also reduces the number of Love Field gates at 20, so nearby residents won’t suffer under grossly increased commercial air traffic.

Now Congress has to approve the deal. While North Texas legislators are likely to support a local solution, legislators from states outside the Wright perimeter may bristle at the agreement’s restrictions. Unfortunately, if Congress allows Southwest to fly nonstop from Love to any other states in the next eight years, the local agreement would require the airline to relinquish half its Love Field gates to do so. This will keep Southwest from offering Love Field nonstops to its sizable Phoenix hub.

Nevertheless, it’s a good first step toward dismantling an anti-competitive law that is no longer needed by anyone without a stake in American Airlines or D/FW Airport.

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