Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Southwest Airline Wants to Open Love Up

From the AP Wire:

A consultant hired by Southwest Airlines Co. says allowing long-haul flights from Dallas Love Field would save travelers nearly $700 million in lower fares while boosting traffic to and from North Texas.

Southwest offered the study Tuesday to bolster its case to repeal a 1979 law that has blocked the low-cost carrier from flying from Dallas, its corporate home, to most major U.S. cities.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and its dominant tenant, American Airlines, defend the limits at Love Field near downtown Dallas. They say repeal could weaken DFW.

Southwest's consultant, Brian M. Campbell, said that if Southwest added flights between Dallas and 15 other U.S. cities, passengers would save $688 million a year because American and other carriers would match Southwest's lower fares.

Campbell said lower fares would spur 3.7 million additional trips to and from Texas, generating $1.7 billion a year in additional spending at hotels, restaurants and other local businesses. He claimed the true cost of the 1979 law, called the Wright Amendment, is $4.2 billion, including money that other cities lose because fewer people from Dallas visit them.

Campbell said he used information about fares from the U.S. Department of Transportation to make his estimates. He said Southwest paid his firm, Campbell-Hill Aviation Group Inc. of Alexandria, Va., $75,000.

Congress placed restrictions on Love Field to help the then-new DFW Airport grow. Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said DFW is now fully mature and doesn't need the protection.

Southwest co-founder and chairman Herb Kelleher called the law "an affront to consumers" and a relic of the aviation industry before deregulation.

An official at American Airlines, a unit of Fort Worth-based AMR Corp., questioned why Southwest didn't simply begin service at DFW if it wanted to fly beyond Texas and seven nearby states.

"Although Southwest tries to make this all about fares ... repealing the Wright Amendment only serves to line the pockets of Southwest," said Dan Garton, American's executive vice president.

Southwest officials countered that American could lose $300 million a year if forced to cut fares at DFW to Southwest's levels.

Kevin Cox, the chief operating officer at DFW Airport, echoed American's call for Southwest to start flights at his airport — and offered Southwest free rent as an enticement.

Southwest officials said flights at bigger DFW would be more expensive than Love Field and they won't use two local airports.

Last month, DFW Airport issued a report by another consultant that repealing the Wright Amendment could lead to fewer flights and a loss of one-third of DFW's 60 million annual passengers while Love Field traffic would nearly quadruple to 22 million travelers.

DFW officials originally withheld part of the report that indicated that lifting restrictions at Love Field would cause fares between North Texas and dozens of U.S. cities to fall up to 50 percent.


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