Landing Fees Go Up in Dallas

Dallas Love Field is raising the landing fee for the first time since 1987 in hopes of pulling the airport out of the red.

That measure was shot down by a count of 12-3, split the same way as the 55-cent vote. Councilwoman Pauline Medrano joined Hunt and Rasansky in voting against the 55-cent measure and for the $1.40 rate.

Mayor Laura Miller said before the two votes that although it's important to raise the rates, jumping up to $1.40 would be "extremely high" and ill-advised.

Southwest's Stewart said that any more of an increase would be punitive and his airline would have fought it.

In about three months, the council expects to hear a more detailed report from the Aviation Department on the fees that Love charges, including ground leases and concession fees. The council may consider raising landing fees again at that time.

Councilman Ed Oakley just hopes that Southwest doesn't get the wrong message and move service elsewhere.

"I don't want to bash Southwest Airlines," Oakley said. "They're a huge employer. They're a big tax payer. ...This debate about jacking the fees up to something that matches an airport in Anchorage or somewhere else is not apples to apples."

When all of the airport charges are considered -- including landing fees, gate rentals and apron fees -- Love Field is still one of cheapest, according to published government figures obtained by the Star-Telegram.

Denver International Airport is near the top at $13.05 per passenger. D/FW ranks 13 spots down at $8.30. And Love comes in near the bottom at $1.51.

"We're fully aware the fees are low here, but more than enough cover the cost of operating Love Field," Southwest's Stewart said. "More than enough."

The landing-fee vote came as pressure intensified on local officials in North Texas to come up with a solution to the Wright Amendment furor, to avert possible congressional action.

As part of her campaign to ratchet up local political activity on the Wright Amendment, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, met for an hour Wednesday in Dallas with Miller, after speaking with Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief on Friday.

"The senator is trying to continue to foster discussion" on the Wright Amendment, said Chris Paulitz, Hutchison's spokesman. "The meeting was very productive. They are continuing to discuss this so Congress doesn't intervene without local community input."

To avoid the constant threat of state-by-state exemptions -- a tactic favored by Southwest -- Hutchison has been putting pressure on local officials to come to terms.

Although there has been some discussion in political circles of a regional airport board to bring both airports under the same controlling authority, Paulitz said Hutchison's effort is more general at this time.

Star-Telegram Washington correspondent Maria Recio contributed to this report.


Landing fees

Here is a list of airports comparable in size to Dallas Love Field with their landing weight charge per 1,000 pounds in 2003, the most recent figures available from the Dallas Aviation Department:

Southwest Florida International; Fort Myers, Fla.; $0.67

San Antonio International; San Antonio; $0.95

Kansas City International; Kansas City, Mo.; $1.10

Austin-Bergstrom International; Austin; $2.73

SOURCE: Dallas Aviation Department

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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