Kelly also nixes move to DFW to take up the slack after Delta
Southwest Airlines once again appears to be trying to set itself
on a path to free itself of the restrictions of the Wright
Amendment. The Amendment is part of a federal law enacted in 1979
that limits flights from Dallas' Love Field to Texas and seven
neighboring states. Southwest's CEO Gary Kelly, in a speech
addressing the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, took aim at the
law, calling it anticompetitive.
The law is once again under attack, this time by Tennessee's
delegation to the US House of Representatives, and Kelly thinks
they are doing the right thing to help the Dallas Airport grow.
"It's anticompetitive. That's its purpose," Kelly said.
The amendment, named after defrocked House Speaker Jim Wright of
Fort Worth (TX), was designed to strike a bargain that would make
DFW Airport the prime gateway into North Texas, but allow Love
Field to grow and protect the quality of life of the residents
around the downtown Dallas airport.
Kelly is arguing, though, that the law is outdated and
unnecessary because of American's strength at DFW. Proof of the
fact, says Kelly, is Delta's decision to pull out of DFW as a hub
and cancel more than 200 flights a day from the airport. Southwest
could get around the Wright Amendment by moving its operations to
DFW and taking up Delta's space, something the DFW airport
management were strongly pursuing.
However, Kelly has rebuffed the offer, and instead has decided
to indirectly promote the efforts of the Tennessee legislators, who
want Southwest to provide service from Love Field to Nashville, and
are seeking to modify the Wright Amendment to allow that to take
place after American Airlines decided to reduce service to that
city. Kelly also predicts that other cities and states may seek to
follow Tenneesse's lead to pave the way for Southwest to serve
The management at DFW Airport was quick to respond to Kelly's
remarks, saying that Southwest's actions may hurt DFW's attempts to
bring other low-cost carriers onto the DFW ramps.
Jeff Fegan, DFW International Board CEO, said "An agreement is
an agreement. The legislative history of the Wright Amendment shows
a clear compromise between the Cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, DFW
International Airport and Southwest Airlines. The agreement has
provided certainty and harmony for all parties over the years,
including residents surrounding Dallas Love Field."
Max Wells, DFW International Airport Board Chairman expressed
concern that Kelly's decision will have a chilling effect on other
airlines plans to enter the DFW market.
"DFW has been pursuing
Southwest Airlines to provide low-fare service out of our Airport,
which it can do under the terms of the Wright Amendment, and today
Southwest announced that it has declined," said Wells. "Whether
intentional or unintentional, Mr. Kelly's comments today could have
a chilling effect on another low-fare carrier entering the market
at DFW. Southwest may be attempting to turn its competitors away
from North Texas."
Kevin Cox, DFW International Airport Chief Operating Officer,
expressed his opinion on the events in stronger terms. "This latest
assault on the Wright Amendment could not be more ill-timed to have
a detrimental impact upon DFW," said Cox. "The Airport just
completed the financing of its $2.7 billion capital development
program - which includes a new airport train and international
terminal - through the issuance of new debt. These
facilities, built to improve the travel experience and business
environment for North Texas, will increase DFW's debt load
Cox added that "Obviously, any changes to the Wright Amendment,
which could siphon traffic from DFW Airport to Love Field, would
have a detrimental effect upon DFW and its carriers at a time when
they are least equipped to handle such a major change."