American Airlines Ramps Up Anti-Repeal Fight

American Airlines plans to issue a report next week on the impact of a repeal of the Wright Amendment, as the airline begins to take a more aggressive public stance on the issue.

American will release the study at a news conference Monday. The airline hired consulting firm Eclat Consulting to look at the impact on Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Dallas Love Field, the North Texas economy and dozens of smaller cities nationwide.

It will be the fourth study examining the possible impact of a repeal. Previous reports had been commissioned by D/FW Airport, Southwest Airlines and the Boyd Group, a Colorado airline consulting firm.

The amendment is a 1979 federal law that restricts flights at Love Field to Texas and adjacent states, as well as Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama. For nearly a year, Southwest has been lobbying to have the law overturned so it can operate long-haul service from Love. That airline flies from Love Field and refuses to move any operations to D/FW, claiming that the larger airport does not fit its business model.

D/FW has strongly opposed any changes to the law, alleging that a repeal would damage the airport's finances and hurt the area economy. D/FW officials have urged Southwest to begin long-haul service from their airport, which is unrestricted.

American, which operates its largest hub at D/FW, also opposes any change. So far, the airline has tried to keep a low public profile in the fight, focusing primarily on lobbying Congress, while Southwest has taken the issue to the public by broadcasting television ads ridiculing the law as outdated and unfair.

Both the D/FW and Southwest studies concluded that fares from North Texas would drop if the amendment is repealed, but D/FW argued that in the process, hundreds of the airport's daily flights could be lost to Love.

The Boyd study concluded that the impact would be minimal, with Southwest adding no more than a dozen destinations, many of which have low-fare competition from carriers like AirTran Airways and America West Airlines.

The study comes just days after American's chief executive, Gerard Arpey, called his Southwest rivals hypocritical for campaigning for a repeal while supporting rules that would limit growth at Love.

In a speech Thursday, Arpey said repealing the law could hurt North Texas' position in the world economy because D/FW could lose some international flights.

"To purposely weaken D/FW would be akin to unilaterally disarming in the global fight to attract talent, jobs and capital to North Texas," he said.

Southwest officials counter that loosing the restrictions will boost the regional economy by lowering airfares and attracting more business travel.

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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