After decades of the Wright Amendment crippling Love Field in Dallas, it appears that an end may finally be in sight. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s plea for the involved parties to come up with a local solution instead of dragging the fight into the US Senate seems to have finally yielded fruit: last Thursday (June 15th), American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Dallas, Fort Worth, and the DFW Airport signed an agreement that represents a truce among the parties. Admittedly, this is just the first step in what will be a very long process (it needs to be okayed by Dallas and Fort Worth as well as the DFW Airport board, and then needs to pass through US Congress before December), but it is rather promising.
The good news is that, if everything goes well, the Wright Amendment is going away.
The bad news is that Southwest will still largely suffer under the same restrictions for another 8 years. Apparently, American Airlines, being unused to any sensible competition in the Dallas area, needs that long to plan a strategy that allows them to compete with an airline that can afford to charge about half as much.
Examining the finer details of the agreement: Southwest is immediately allowed to ticket connecting flights to non-Wright amendment states. In other words, you can now fly from DAL to SJC on a single ticket and check your luggage all the way through; but you’ll have to stop in an allowed destination (like El Paso) on the way.
Also, the City of Dallas will be forced, at taxpayers’ expense, to demolish 12 of the 32 gates at Love Field. Of the remaining 20 gates, Southwest will be allowed to use only 16. And if Southwest chooses to fly out of any airport other than Love in the DFW area, they lose those gates as well.
The important thing here is that American Airlines’ insistent and unattractive plea for the federal government to continue to save it from honest competition has failed. Within 8 years, there is significant promise that the cost of flights from Dallas will drop from 48% above the national average to something more in line with it. And really, that’s good news for everyone — at least, everyone who hasn’t been profiting from ridiculous, government-protected price gouging for the past 30 years.