Sunday, June 26, 2005

Free Southwest Airlines

After many years, it appears Congress may be willing to repeal the Wright Amendment. The 1979 law prevents carriers out of Dallas' Love Field Airport from offering non-stop flights to anywhere except other cities inside Texas and bordering states.

Love Field is the Dallas base of Southwest Airlines and, because of the Wright Amendment, you can't fly Southwest direct from Dallas to say Las Angeles or Miami or Baltimore or most other major destinations. Nor can you fly Southwest non-stop in to Dallas from those cities. The law was passed to help boost Dallas/Forth Worth International and its main carrier, American Airlines. But now with the emergence of Southwest as one of the nation's largest airlines, Congress is rethinking the logic of the law.

Hopefully, the Wright Amendment will be repealed. It's a bad law. Government should not pass regulations that specifically help one private business while hurting another. American Airlines is lobbying to keep the rule because it fears increased competition from Southwest would negatively affect its bottom line. And it probably would. But right now it's Southwest whose bottom line is being hurt. Why does American Airlines deserve special treatment? Why not let free competition decide whose bottom line is most affected?

Southwest Airlines has been forced to operate under unfair federal regulation for too long. The Wright Amendment should be repealed.


At 6:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well said!

At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you know about the subject, other than what you posted? Do you know the history of the Wright Amendment?

Do you know that Southwest has repeatedly sought and gained several exemptions from the Amendment?

For its entire history SWA has been an example of chipping away at the law and getting what they wanted. Now, they say, only this little thing will be what they need.


Who has the advantage at Love Field now? SWA. Can AA go in and compete on a level playing field? NO! Why? Because SWA has the majority of gates at Love and would never give any up. More cannot be built because the Love Field Master Plan forbids it. But, give SWA some time, and even that agreement will be the next to go, at the misfortune of those living and working around Love Field. Without a doubt they will be asking for more runways and terminals.

Meanwhile, DFW has plenty of gates for SWA to "expand" out of. The gates are there for the taking, all SWA has to do is play by the rules. There is absolutely NOTHING stopping Southwest from flying and competing anywhere out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, except the fact they can't get their own way!

At 8:22 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Wow. Such anger at Southwest Airlines. I am aware of the exemptions granted Southwest Airlines over the year. I also know they don't want to fly out of DFW. But why should they have to? What's wrong about flying non-stop flights out of Love Field? Who other than American Airlines does the Wright Amendment benefit? Where's the public good? And why does AA they deserve special treatment? Just because you dislike SW doesn't mean they deserve to be artificially limitted by a federal law.

At 8:47 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Wanted to add--while it's true that American Airlines can't get enough gates at Love Field in order to compete directly at that specific airport, I don't think that matters in the airline marketplace. Most travelers who are bargain-hunting will be willing to travel further for a better price. Or, conversely, for those who are more concerned with convenience, DFW provides a location more central to the Dallas/Fort Worth region. Love is only convenient if you have business in Downtown Dallas. So I think there are more than enough natural market factors to keep the playing field level without the federal government artificially manipulating the system.

At 10:18 PM, Anonymous Booger Jim said...

Anonymous gets awfully hot without understanding fully all that is involved.

First, anonymous asks several pointed questions, each of which I respond in like with a question... is this any kind of rationalization for a Federal Law?
Or, has America reached so low with Pork Barrel politics that we need to pass Federal Laws to pick up the trash and fill in the potholes on my street?

Everyone on both sides of the Wright Amendment need to understand this: It is a Federal Law. Even the pro-Wright people are quick to argue that it is a "local issue." If so, then get the law off the Federal books and lets handle things locally. Until then, podunk airports in Florida and California have every right to complain.

Second, Anonymous and numerous others who are pro-Wright all ask for SW to move to DFW. All of you need a lesson in Econ 101: Free Markets Prevail. SW airplanes stop where they do because intelligent marketing guided them to land the planes there just as intelligent marketing has guided them to NOT land planes at DFW or O'Hare or JFK or Houston Bush or Miami.

Third, there has been a clear emergence over time of airport pairs at Dallas, Chicago, New York, Houson, Los Angeles, and Miami where there are closely coupled airport twins. The larger airport services the connecting and international travellers while the smaller sibling airport services the direct flight vacation and business traveller. None of the sibling airport pairs are harmful to the other. But more importantly, none of the sibling pairs require a Federal Law to protect one from the other. Its just silly to think that a Federal Law is required to do anything related to "protecting" an airport.

Finally, read your history. Laws that restrict interstate commerce have never lasted. This law won't either.

At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If AA had a decent low fare product, people would use DFW and the Wright Amendment would be no big deal. AA does not have a decent low fare product. AA only fights repeal because they know they can't compete. Get rid of the Wright Amendment to force AA to compete. Moving SWA to DFW would only increase fares and hurt North Texas traveler pocketbooks.

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that American threatens to move some flights to Love in order to compete with Southwest. They have flown out of Love in the past--the not to distant past. Upstart Legend airlines tried to fly nonstop out of Love with small planes configured to circumvent the Wright Amendment. American, Delta and Continental did the same. They drove Legend out of business and proceeded to lose money on a grand scale.

It costs money to build and maintain the infrastructure necessary to operate flights. From Customer Service Agents, Ramp Agents, Maintenance Personnel and Baggage Handlers to Flight Attendants and Pilots--all of these people need basic equipment to function. There are also basics like signs (branding is important) and all the amenities that customers expect at the gates. There would also be supply lines to keep all of this moving from the main base to the smaller satellite at the other airport.

If American lost money attempting this at a smaller and less expensive airport, why would Southwest even consider moving any flights to a larger, more expensive, and more congested airport like DFW?

At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous "1:04 PM" said it very well. AA threatens to move a substantial amount of their service to Love Field and compete with SWA. Well, if I'm not mistaken, they still hold the leases on 3 gates in the old East Concourse, and even spent several million dollars updating the space (BTW without required permission of the City of Dallas, who owns Love). They can fly 20-30 flights a day out of those gates - and lose money doing it - if they wish. They can sublease the 6 former-Legend gates - the gates are empty because they succeeded in killing Legend. There's another 50-60 flights a day, probably at a loss as well. They can sue Continental to let AA use their gates - that was successful once back in the Legend days.

Stupid decisions, each and every one.

I believe these are idle threats from a company who is smarting from years of stupid decisions and CYA leadership. Gerard knows better - he is doing great things at AA.

Don't be stupid, Gerard. Focus on growing YOUR business, and SWA will focus on growing their business - at Love Field.

At 1:57 AM, Anonymous FreeLoveField said...

I completely agree. Southwest should have every right to fly out of Love Field. It should not be the decisions of the government to determine the decisions of consumers. Besides, many major metropolitan areas do fine with more than one airport such as New York, Chicago, Washington D.C, Los Angeles, San Francisco Area, and Houston, which is a perfect example. Southwest Airlines operates out of Hobby Airport with more than 140 daily departures. Hobby Airport is closer to major attractions such as Galveston, Downtown, Astroworld/Astrodome, RIce University, etc. Continental has to compete at Intercontinental Airport which is 21 miles north of downtown Houston, away from Houston's major attractions. The Houston area benefits from two airports, low fares, and competition.

When Southwest enters a new market, something known as the "Southwest Effect" occurs, meaning prices go down and passenger traffic increases. If Southwest flew longhaul from Love Field, American would lower its fares which would allow competition to thrive at both airports. Besides DFW serves many communities of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex such as Irving, Arlington, Ft. Worth, etc. Love Field serves to strive the Dallas city center.

All I can say is let competition fly and give the people of Dallas what they want: low fares and convenient flights out of Love Field!

At 10:21 PM, Anonymous AA Stew said...

The people are the ones that should benefit and we want Southwest to fly more flights out of Love Field non-stop to where ever we need to go. I am a former flight attendant for AA - and I say "you go, Southwest".


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