Flights Between Chattanooga, Tenn., Dallas Concern American Airlines

American Airlines officials warned Tuesday that Chattanooga's new but well-used air service to Dallas-Fort Worth could be in jeopardy.

"We're concerned about Chattanooga," said Mary Frances Fagan, American's manager of corporate communications.

Officials said the problem isn't a lack of traffic, as the flight between Chattanooga and Dallas-Fort Worth filled 79 percent of its seats in December. Instead, Lovell Field and other smaller airports are caught in a Texas-sized battle between American and rival Southwest Airlines.

Such a move is seen by American, which has a hub at nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, as a threat and a potential problem for smaller cities to which it flies.

Bill Hood, American's managing director of corporate affairs, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board that repealing the Wright Amendment would prompt American to match an expanded Southwest flight schedule. That would force American to pull planes from existing cities it serves.

"We're not here to threaten, but it's possible Chattanooga could lose service," Mr. Hood said.

If the Wright Amendment stays in place, he said service could grow.

"I think we'd build up our service," Mr. Hood said.

Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Beth Harbin said in a telephone interview a factor Chattanoogans ought to consider is that American won't walk away from making a profit.

"If the flights are full and making money, just like any other business, they'll not do away with that service," she said.

Ms. Harbin also said one of its main points in seeking to repeal the Wright Amendment is the idea of free enterprise without regulation.

"No other airport has the type of restrictions (Love Field) has," she said.

Still, Ms. Harbin said, Southwest has no plans in the near future to service Chattanooga.

American affiliate American Eagle started service between Chattanooga and Dallas-Fort Worth with one daily flight on a regional jet in August. Kris Prettyman, American's Chattanooga station manager, said she'd like to add a second daily flight.

Mike Landguth, the Chattanooga airport's president, said he'd like to see American expand service to Dallas-Fort Worth. He said the American hub connects to 29 of the top 30 destinations of Chattanoogans flying west.

"The repeal of the amendment could hurt communities like Chattanooga," Mr. Landguth said.

Mr. Hood said American already has canceled service in some cities after it announced plans to fly from Love Field late last year. American did so following a move by U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., who attached an amendment to a transportation spending bill that exempted Missouri from the Love Field restrictions.

American is concerned other states such as Tennessee could be removed from the Wright Amendment. If Tennessee is removed, Mr. Hood said it's likely Southwest would only offer service from Love Field to Nashville.

Don Walker, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan, R-Tenn., said the congressman who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has heard concerns from McGhee-Tyson airport officials in Knoxville.

"He told them he supported what was best for the airport and wouldn't support anything that hurt the airport or the economy of East Tennessee," Mr. Walker said.

Tom Edd Wilson, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, said convenient air service is important to economic development.

"A lot of companies we talk to have an interest in direct flights," he said. Mr. Wilson said he plans to study the issue in detail and determine the best course of action.

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