Wright Accord May Be Near: 9-Year Phase-Out Considered

The resolution would effectively force American to accept eventual repeal of the 1979 Wright law.

Jun. 10--The mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth appear headed toward a compromise on the Wright amendment that could displease the two carriers that have the most at stake in the debate, American Airlines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co.

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, e-mailing from inside a meeting with Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief on Friday, said that the negotiations on lifting flight restrictions at Love Field remain fluid and that there is still no deal.

But two Dallas officials, who declined to be identified because the terms are being closely held, said Friday that the resolution being considered by the mayors would effectively force American to accept eventual repeal of the 1979 Wright law.

It also would pressure the airline to give up its gates at Love Field, they said.

The resolution would call for a phase-out of Wright over nine years, reducing the immediate impact on American's operation at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the officials said.

And it would cap the number of gates at Love at 20 in an effort to ease concerns about noise and traffic from additional flights at the city airport.

The measure also would immediately allow through-ticketing, officials said, which would permit passengers to fly anywhere in the U.S. on a single ticket if they first stopped in a state within the Wright perimeter.

In expectation of a Wright compromise, the Dallas City Council is tentatively scheduled to meet Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt hotel at D/FW Airport. But Ms. Miller's office stressed that the meeting will be held only if she and Mr. Moncrief reach a decision.

Any compromise that Dallas and Fort Worth reach isn't necessarily binding. The airlines could continue their appeals on Capitol Hill, regardless of what the cities propose.

The Wright law limits most commercial service from Love to a nine-state region. Dallas' deadline for reaching a compromise is Wednesday. Fort Worth's is Aug. 1.

American, which has its largest hub at D/FW, launched service at Love in March after federal law was changed to allow nonstop service from Love to Missouri. But American has been an unenthusiastic tenant at Love, saying it moved some flights there only to protect its best customers from being poached by Southwest.

Under the terms being considered, Southwest, which has sought immediate repeal of the law, could have to wait until 2015 to serve its nationwide network with nonstop flights from Love, its home airport.

However, Southwest would be allowed to sell tickets anywhere in the country immediately with the through-ticketing provision. Passengers would be able to fly anywhere in the U.S. on a single ticket if they first stopped in a "Wright" state -- for example, stopping in St. Louis on the way to Chicago, or in Houston on the way to Tampa, Fla. Currently, passengers must purchase two separate tickets to fly to those destinations from Love, diminishing potential cost savings.

In March, facing concerns that legislators in other parts of the country might seek to exempt their states from Wright, the North Texas congressional delegation asked the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth to craft a local solution.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., introduced legislation in the Senate last month that would add Nebraska to the states where long-haul flights are permissible from Love Field. The bill is identical to one introduced in the House by the state's three Republican members. Like the House proposal, Mr. Hagel's bill also includes a through-ticketing provision that would allow passengers to make connections beyond the Wright perimeter states on a single ticket.

Mr. Hagel is co-sponsor of a Senate bill introduced last year by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., that would repeal the Wright amendment.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, the lead sponsor of the House repeal proposal with Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano, said an agreement between Dallas and Fort Worth would be historic. But he already was raising doubts about the terms reported Friday.

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