Air Traffic to Missouri Surges

Jun. 2--More North Texans are flying to Missouri these days after that state's exemption from the Wright Amendment.

Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicate a substantial increase in passengers traveling between North Texas' two airports and St. Louis and Kansas City in the first two months after Southwest Airlines began flying to Missouri from Dallas Love Field. The numbers appear to confirm what some analysts have predicted -- that Southwest's lower fares would stimulate demand for travel.

"When you get introductory low fares like that, you're going to get a spurt of traffic," said Mike Boyd, an airline consultant with The Boyd Group of Evergreen, Colo.

The number of passengers flying to St. Louis or Kansas City from either Dallas/Fort Worth Airport or Love Field rose 43 percent in January and February, the most recent data available, compared with the same period in 2005, according to the government.

The increase far outpaced overall traffic growth at the two airports, which was about 5 percent.

Southwest began service to the two Missouri airports from Love in mid-December. American Airlines matched the lower fares from D/FW. In March, American began its own flights from Love to the two cities.

The new Love Field service was made possible after Congress exempted Missouri from the Wright Amendment, a 1979 law that limits flights from Love to Texas and a few nearby states.

"This shows that the Southwest effect is alive and well," Southwest spokesman Ed Stewart said. "And this is just the tip of the iceberg."

Southwest has been pushing for a repeal of the amendment. American, meanwhile, has fought to keep the restrictions in place.

American officials suggested that some of the new traffic may have been diverted to Love from unrestricted airports like Austin and Oklahoma City.

And they say that Southwest could have had the same impact by flying from D/FW.

"Love Field has nothing to do with traffic stimulation or low fares," spokesman Tim Wagner said. "Southwest could have accomplished exactly the same things at D/FW by starting flights there."

Boyd warned that it's too early to know whether demand will remain high over the long term.

"Wait three months and see if it keeps up," he said.

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Trebor Banstetter, 817-390-7064 tbanstetter@star-telegram.com

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