Airlines Oppose Wright Deal

Executives of JetBlue plan to fight the Texas deal in Congress and will complain to the FAA.


Northwest Airlines Corp. and JetBlue Airways Corp. are objecting to a deal before Congress that would reduce the size of Love Field in exchange for eventually allowing long-haul flights from the Dallas airport.

The carriers say the agreement would lock new competitors out of Love Field.

Northwest officials said the Texas deal limited its ability to compete fairly with other airlines.

JetBlue, which announced Tuesday it will operate flights to Houston Hobby Airport, said it is interested in serving Love Field but not nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Executives of the airline said they plan to fight the Texas deal in Congress and will complain to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Robert Land, JetBlue's senior vice president of government affairs, said the New York-based carrier had supported Southwest Airlines Co.'s effort to repeal a 1979 federal law, called the Wright Amendment, that limits flights to and from Love Field to Texas and nearby states.

Land said JetBlue was stunned this month when Southwest struck a deal with American Airlines, the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth and DFW Airport, which is owned by the cities, to lift long-haul restrictions at Love Field in eight years. In exchange, Love Field would shrink from 32 gates - although many are unused - to 20 gates.

"Up until two weeks ago, we thought everything was moving in the right direction," Land said. "The deal they struck is very anticompetitive and bad for consumers."

Before the deal was announced, Dallas-based Southwest had lobbied Congress to repeal the Wright Amendment. It was opposed by Fort Worth-based American, a unit of AMR Corp., which said expanding Love Field would drain flights from DFW Airport, its biggest hub.

Some consumers have also criticized the deal, particularly the eight-year wait before lifting long-haul restrictions at Love Field, which consultants for the airlines say artificially drives up air fares in North Texas.


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