The department has no position on the amendment at this point, but spokesman Joe McBride said airports welcome the so-called Southwest Effect of lower fares on its routes.
In 2004, the average fare of all carriers between Dallas and Kansas City is $158, according to department statistics. The average fare between KCI and Indianapolis, a comparable distance that Southwest flies, was 50 percent lower.
McBride said his wife recently flew to Dallas at the last minute, at a cost of more than $900. A flight of comparable distance on Southwest at the last minute would run about $200, said Brandy King, a Southwest spokeswoman.
Competition is good for our customers, said Mark VanLoh, aviation director. If we gain any additional flights to Texas it will be good for KC.
So the fight is on for the hearts and minds of the public and of Congress.
The Wright Amendment is a federal subsidy for one airport and one airline in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Southwests Ricks said. Thats not a policy, thats a scam. And its outrageous.
Its a difficult battle of words to win, Americans Wagner said. They dont have to tell the whole story. They just have to say low fares and convenient airport and its just that simple. It isnt.
Southwest held a rally in Dallas last week promoting its fight against the Wright Amendment. It also unveiled a Web site, to publicize its efforts: www.setlovefree.com
DFW countered with its own: www.keepdfwstrong.com
In lobbying power, American and DFW would seem to have an advantage, with more long-standing relationships in Congress.
In 2004, American spent a reported $2 million on lobbying, while DFW spent more than $400,000. Southwest reported spending just $80,000.
DFW recently hired a top Washington firm, Hogan and Hartson. According to disclosure forms, the firm has five lobbyists on the case, led by a former top aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who could play a major role.
Newly in the middle of the debate is Sen. Kit Bond, the new chairman of the transportation appropriations subcommittee, which gives him influence over the Wright Amendments future.
A previous chairman of the subcommittee, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, led the 1997 modification of the law that allowed service between Love Field and Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas.
Bond staffers say they are gathering information about the law, and whether it should be repealed, modified again, or left intact. They have met with representatives of Southwest and DFW, with more meetings set soon with American.
As chairman, (Bond) will look at the situation in its entirety but clearly a main concern of the senators is how any legislative action would affect Missouri, said Rob Ostrander, Bonds spokesman.
American spokesman Wagner said there was no way to know if Americans Kansas City maintenance base would be affected should Southwest start a Kansas City-Dallas route and put more economic pressure on American.
American is in the process of eliminating 513 jobs. After that process is complete in June, 900 jobs will remain at the maintenance base.
But, understanding that it would cost American hundreds of millions of dollars a year, coupled with the headwind were facing now with high fuel prices, youd expect any company would have to retrench to find a way to deal with that, the American spokesman said.
One complicating factor for American: The Missouri delegations unhappiness with the aftermath of Americans takeover of St. Louis-based TWA a few years ago.
American Airlines, the world's largest airline, and Southwest Airlines, Kansas City's largest carrier, are fighting over an obscure 26-year-old law called the Wright Amendment.
The law needs to be signed by Bush, which is expected to happen in the next several days.
President Bush is expected to sign a bill today that will open up air service between Dallas Love Field and points in Missouri for the first time since 1979.
More North Texans are flying to Missouri these days after that state's exemption from the Wright Amendment.