Consultant Says Love Field Expansion Would Hurt D/FW

DALLAS (AP) -- A consultant hired by Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport says an expansion of nearby Love Field would lead to reduced flights and millions fewer passengers each year at DFW.

If long flights were allowed from Love Field, other carriers at DFW would shift flights there, leaving the equivalent of an entire DFW terminal standing empty, the consultant said in a report released Tuesday.

The report is the latest salvo in the fight between DFW, one of the nation's biggest airports, and Southwest Airlines Co. over local air service.

Southwest wants to overturn the Wright Amendment, a 25-year-old federal rule that limits commercial flights from Love Field to Texas and seven nearby states. Congress imposed the limit to protect then-new DFW against competition from Love Field, which is more conveniently located for Dallas passengers.

DFW has been unable to fill gates vacated last year by Delta Air Lines. DFW Chief Operating Officer Kevin Cox blamed Southwest, saying the airline's effort to expand at Love Field has scared away other low-cost carriers.

Boston-based aviation consultants Simat, Helliesen & Eichner Inc. said repealing Love Field limits could cause DFW to lose 21 million of its 60 million annual passengers and drop 204 daily flights. At the same time, Love Field passengers would nearly quadruple, from 6.6 million to 22.1 million per year, the consultant said.

The worst-case scenario would include AMR Corp.'s American Airlines following through on its threat to compete with Southwest by adding flights at Love Field and assumes that other airlines would also shift DFW flights to Love.

Dallas-based Southwest did not immediately return a call for comment. Southwest officials have said adding long flights from Love Field would increase local competition and result in lower fares.

Christina Cassotis of Simat Helliesen acknowledged that repealing the Wright Amendment would lead to increased traffic and lower fares, but she said the same could be accomplished by adding low-cost carriers such as Southwest expanded service at DFW.

Southwest officials have said they are not interested in operating out of two nearby airports. This year, Southwest pulled out of one of Houston's two airports.

Southwest had long remained silent on repealing the Wright Amendment until late last year.

Cox, the DFW official, produced a 1990 statement by Southwest Chairman Herbert Kelleher that if Love Field became a full-fledged hub airport ''air service to the metroplex would suffer to some extent.''

Kelleher said at the time that if local flights were divided among two airports, service to some smaller cities would be lost, making it harder to fill connecting flights.