City Councils to Address Wright Resolution

Mar. 6--FORT WORTH -- City leaders are set to take ownership of the debate over the Wright Amendment on Tuesday when they vote on a resolution asking Congress to let local officials settle the squabble.

The resolution, which is identical to one on the agenda before the Dallas City Council on Wednesday, says that both cities will come up with a "plan to address air operations and aviation in the North Central Texas region that is beneficial to the entire region." The cities agree to return the plan to Congress by Oct. 1.

The resolution leaves open the option of forming a regional authority to control airports in both cities.

Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and Dallas Mayor Laura Miller have been discussing the aviation problem for the past two or three months, spurred by the possibility that Congress might continue to chip away at or abolish the Wright Amendment.

"Let me assure you that the Fort Worth City Council and I are committed to finding common ground that will protect the robust economy that our Metroplex enjoys," Moncrief said in a statement.

The amendment was passed in the early 1970s to protect Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, which is jointly owned by the cities, from competition. It originally limited flights from Dallas Love Field to destinations within Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. It was amended in 1997 to allow flights to Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi and in 2005 to allow flights to Missouri.

Both Moncrief and Miller have tried to keep the discussions low-key.

Moncrief has said he wants to avoid the tit-for-tat battles that erupted over the Wright Amendment in the late 1990s, when Fort Worth sued Dallas over plans to expand flights from Love Field. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and the tension delayed plans to expand the runways at D/FW Airport.

The final resolution will have a major impact on jobs and airline prices in both cities. American Airlines, which has thousands of employees in Fort Worth, uses D/FW as a hub.

Critics say the restrictions on flights from Love Field allow American to charge higher fares for long-haul flights, and use its market dominance to push out lower-cost competitors. Consumers could see lower prices if more low-cost airlines begin flying from D/FW.

D/FW Airport has been struggling recently. Its revenues declined sharply in the wake of the 9/11 attacks at the same time it was beginning an aggressive construction program. Airport officials are projecting a $35 million shortfall this year, in part because of competition from Love Field.

Southwest Airlines, based at Love Field, has been expanding its low-cost flights to other states, and could benefit sharply if the Love restrictions are lifted.


Staff writers David Wethe and Maria Recio contributed to this report.

Mike Lee, (817) 390-7539