Study: Wright Amendment Repeal Would Harm D/FW

A new study commissioned by American Airlines concludes that Dallas/Fort Worth Airport could lose hundreds of flights to scores of destinations if the Wright Amendment is repealed.

A new study commissioned by American Airlines concludes that Dallas/Fort Worth Airport could lose hundreds of flights to scores of destinations if the Wright Amendment is repealed.

The report, which American released Monday, was written by Eclat Consulting, an airline consulting firm based in Reston, Va. It says that if the Wright restrictions were eliminated, D/FW would lose 218 daily departures, while Dallas Love Field would gain about 125 flights.

That would give North Texas a net loss of 93 flights. Most of the cities losing service would be in small markets, like Springfield, Mo., Lawton, Okla., and Waco. But the region could also lose nonstop service to several international destinations, including London, Paris and Buenos Aires, Argentina, as feeder routes are cut back.

"The ramifications reach well beyond the D/FW metropolitan area," Randy Babbitt, Eclat's chief executive, said at a news conference in the Grand Hyatt at D/FW Airport's new Terminal D.

The battle over the amendment could soon return to the spotlight in Washington, D.C., said Will Ris, American's senior vice president of government affairs. Ris said the Senate Commerce Committee might hold hearings on the Wright issue by the end of the year.

Gerard Arpey, American's chief executive, would like to testify, Ris said. "He's looking forward to the chance to talk about it," he said.

A spokesman for the committee could not be reached for comment Monday.

Officials with Southwest Airlines dismissed American's report as a scare tactic that doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

"This is more of the sky-is-falling syndrome," said Southwest spokesman Ed Stewart. "They're in the business of threats; we're in the business of low fares."

American's Wright Amendment study is the fourth report this year to examine the effects of repealing the Wright Amendment.

A previous study for Dallas/Fort Worth Airport reached a conclusion similar to American's. A competing study conducted for Southwest said air service in the region would increase, rather than fall, if the amendment is repealed.

An independent report by the Boyd Group, a Colorado consulting firm, concluded that the overall effect on air fares and service would be minimal. That report stated that American would be better off competing from D/FW rather than moving flights to Love, if the amendment is repealed.

The Wright Amendment is a 1979 federal law that limits service at Dallas Love Field airport to cities in Texas and adjacent states. Mississippi, Alabama and Kansas were later added.

Last year, executives at Dallas-based Southwest began a drive to repeal the law, declaring that it was outdated and anti-consumer. Southwest operates solely from Love, saying D/FW does not fit its business model.

That means Southwest and American, which operates its largest hub at D/FW, don't compete on long-haul flights from North Texas.

Officials from D/FW Airport and American have strongly opposed any change, arguing that lifting the restrictions would damage the airport and the area economy.

Southwest and D/FW have both run television and print ads on the issue in recent months. Southwest's ads have ridiculed the law, while D/FW's have urged Southwest to move its operations to the larger airport.

With the release of the study Monday, American appears to be taking a higher profile on the issue. In the past, the airline focused most of its energy on lobbying Congress rather than battling to win public opinion.

According to the Eclat study, American would shift 45 daily flights to Love to compete with Southwest if the restrictions were eliminated. That would force the airline to cut additional flights at its D/FW hub, because it would need fewer passengers at its connecting hub.

Other airlines would shift an additional 33 daily departures to Love, the study concluded, creating a 20 percent reduction in D/FW's total service, according to airport officials.

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