Wright Hearing Won't Include JetBlue

Officials from JetBlue Airways Corp., so far the most vocal opponent to the North Texas compromise on the Wright amendment, are not scheduled to testify at a House hearing next week about eliminating the 1979 flight restrictions.

Though JetBlue has not been invited to speak, the New York-based discounter may submit written comments on its position for the hearing, said Robert Land, JetBlue's senior vice president for government affairs.

Among the witnesses slated for next Wednesday's hearing are officials from the Texas congressional delegation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the five parties to the local agreement -- the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, Southwest Airlines Co., American Airlines Inc. and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Other airlines can submit written testimony reflecting their views on the agreement, said Steve Hansen, a spokesman for the House Transportation Committee.

The format could diminish the chance for fireworks from carriers -- including JetBlue and Northwest Airlines Corp. -- that oppose the local agreement that would lift restrictions on long-haul flights at Dallas Love Field.

Under the deal, passengers would be allowed to buy tickets from Love to any city in the U.S., as long as they first stopped in one of the nine Wright states. After eight years, the one-stop restriction would be removed.

To restrict growth, the agreement calls for the city airport to shrink to 20 gates from 32.

JetBlue says the local deal would prevent the carrier from receiving the two gates it wants at Love once the restrictions are eliminated. The carrier is lobbying against the agreement on Capitol Hill and plans to fight it through the FAA.

In a letter to leaders of key House and Senate committees last week, JetBlue founder and chief executive David Neeleman called the local deal "an anticompetitive and discriminatory arrangement that protects two carriers by permanently excluding all competitors" at the expense of travelers.

Local officials say the airlines operating at Love -- Southwest, American and Continental Airlines Inc. -- would be forced to make room for other carriers through gate-sharing or other arrangements.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, plans to introduce legislation next week to implement the local agreement on a national level. A related House bill is also expected.

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