Talks of Gate Reductions Expected as Way to Solve Write Amendment Debate

The Dallas City Council is expected to talk privately next week about the possibility of reducing the number of gates at Dallas Love Field as a way to limit traffic and solve one dilemma in the Wright Amendment debate.

The council could also talk about the legality of taking leased gates away from Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and redistributing them to other airlines, according to a person close to the council, who asked not to be identified because the source was not authorized to speak publicly before the meeting.

The primary purpose of Tuesday's 10 a.m. special council meeting is to talk about a new low-income housing project in downtown Dallas during an open session. But before that, the council is scheduled to go into a private executive session with City Attorney Tom Perkins.

Perkins is expected to brief the council on the legal issues regarding Love Field's "terminal gate space" and the Wright Amendment, according to the meeting's agenda.

Ed Oakley, a Dallas councilman, said he believes that Mayor Laura Miller will want to talk about reducing the maximum number of gates at Love Field to 26 from 32.

Currently, 19 gates are being used: 14 by Southwest, three by Fort Worth-based American Airlines and two by Continental Airlines. Southwest leases Love's north concourse mostly for employee training and could put about seven gates into operation there. The remaining six gates are in a stand-alone building on the airport's east side that was used by the now-defunct Legend Airlines. The airport doesn't own that building.

"I don't see us increasing the number of gates at that airport," Oakley said. "I don't see us decreasing the number of gates at the airport, and I think that's where the mayor wants to go with this. She wants to talk about the number of gates, but I don't know what that accomplishes. I don't know where you go with that."

Oakley said a solution to the Wright Amendment shouldn't involve building more gates at the airport. And he doesn't want to use taxpayer dollars to buy the former Legend terminal so the city can shut down those gates or demolish the building.

The person close to the council agreed that gate reduction is likely to be discussed at Tuesday's meeting. The person also said the council could look at "the legality of who uses the gates."

In other words, it could approach the question of whether the airport can take some leased gates from Southwest, the airport's largest tenant, and give them to another carrier, such as American or JetBlue. American already flies from Love. It wants to be able to fly out of more gates if the Wright Amendment, which limits commercial flights there, is lifted by Congress. JetBlue has said it would be interested in flying out of Love if the Wright Amendment is lifted.

Through a spokesman, Miller declined to comment on Tuesday's meeting. She has said she thinks that Love's capacity should be reduced to 26 gates.

Southwest would fight any attempts to take away its gates, said Ed Stewart, a company spokesman.

"For those to go away, that defeats the purpose of what customers have been telling us," he said. "In order to offer more low-fare flights to and from North Texas, you'd have to have adequate facilities."

American called the idea of reducing gates an "interesting" one.

"It falls within the spectrum of solutions that we've talked about," said Tim Wagner, a company spokesman. "But there will be all sorts of things talked about and looked at during this process. We're not the ones offering solutions, because we're not the ones who thought anything needed to change."

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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