American Tries to Convince Small Communities to Oppose Amendment

DALLAS (AP) -- American Airlines Inc. has sent executives into small communities urging them to oppose the proposed repeal of the Wright Amendment, which limits long-haul flights out of Dallas Love Field.

Officials from American Eagle, the airlines' subsidiary regional carrier, stopped in Waco Tuesday, telling city officials that they may lose air service if the amendment is repealed. American says if it has to split its 800 flights at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport with Love Field, the smaller hubs will suffer.

The 26-year-old law restricts flights to and from Love Field, home to discount carrier Southwest Airlines. The measure's original intent was to stir growth at then-new DFW, American Airlines' home.

American Eagle officials met with Waco City Manager Larry Groth and Mayor Virginia DuPuy to try to persuade the city to approve a resolution opposing the repeal.

Competing bills to close Love Field or repeal the Wright Amendment are pending in Congress.

With the Texas delegation split on the repeal, American's tactics shift the origin of the pressure to the local level.

American spokesman Tim Wagner said the airline is trying to explain the effects on small cities if the amendment is repealed.

''It is a complicated issue,'' he said, explaining the carrier wants to show how ''pulling just one string on a sweater can start the process of unraveling'' DFW.

Southwest downplayed American's strategy.

''If American threatens to abandon all the cities they've talked about leaving, they might as well liquidate the airline,'' said Southwest's Ed Stewart. ''When you have to resort to these types of scare tactics, it shows that their message isn't getting through.''

American's tactics haven't gone unnoticed on Capitol Hill.

''American Airlines would be far more effective in lobbying if they talked directly to members of Congress rather than blindsiding them with veiled threats of service cutbacks in our districts,'' said Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco.

American officials also have contacted city officials in Midland, San Angelo and Tyler.

So far, the San Angelo City Council reacted with a vote to oppose the repeal of the Wright amendment.