In one year, Wright Amendment flight restrictions go away

Bernard Weinstein, an economist and associate director of SMU's Maguire Energy Institute, talks about the Wright Amendment restrictions in place at Dallas' Love Field airport that will expire in one year.

By Andrea Ahles

DALLAS — Southwest Airlines is ready to celebrate its first minute of freedom from the Wright Amendment at Dallas Love Field, even though it’s a year away.

The Dallas-based airline is unveiling a countdown clock today at its headquarters, reminding employees, passengers and North Texans that starting on Oct. 13, 2014, it will be able to fly nonstop anywhere in the U.S. from its Love Field home.

“We are going to start telling people exactly what this means, in terms of providing nonstop Love to the people of North Texas,” Executive Vice President Ron Ricks said. “We want North Texas to be as excited about it as we are.”

When the compromise agreement was signed in 2006, eight years seemed like a long time to wait for the travel restrictions to be lifted at Love Field. The long-negotiated delay was meant to give Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and its main tenant, American Airlines, time to prepare for the big change.

But in those eight years, the airline industry has changed dramatically as several carriers have merged – including Southwest, which bought AirTran Airways. Both Love Field and DFW have also undertaken expensive terminal renovations to make traveling in and out of the Metroplex more customer-friendly.

As a result, industry analysts don’t expect the end of Wright Amendment restrictions to dramatically affect air travel for travelers in the Metroplex, aside from new competition on selected routes....

Despite years of political arguments over the Wright Amendment, now that the repeal date is close, industry analysts say it will only minimally affect the region.

“Basically, American has locked up DFW and Southwest has locked up Love Field and in that sense nothing is going to change,” said Bud Weinstein, an economist at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business.

Weinstein, who was a vocal critic of the Wright Amendment, argued in 2004 that the best way to boost competition for consumers would be to tear down Love Field and force Southwest to move to DFW. When the Wright Amendment restrictions go away next year, he doesn’t expect any new carriers to add service at Love since the industry has consolidated into fewer airlines....

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