Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Free Love

Now that I have caught your attention let me tell you about a pet peeve and a growing movement to address it.  In 1979, former Ft Worth Congressman Jim Wright wrangled through Congress one of the most anti-competitive pieces of legislation imaginable. The infamous Wright Amendment, attached to a pending aviation bill, restricted  the destination of flights out of Love Field, a Dallas airport (home to Southwest Airlines) that was supposed to shut down after the opening of Dallas-Ft Worth Airport in the mid 1970's. The legislation was defended then and is defended now as a means to foster the development of regional cooperative efforts like DFW.  The practical effect is to reduce competition.  While, truthfully,  antitrust law would not correct this impediment to competition, it is time to rethink the legislation.  For some more information, see Southwest's page as well as the following excerpt from yesterday's Wall Street Journal ("Southwest's Dallas Duel" by Susan Warren & Melanie Trottman):

"After more than a quarter century of living under the restrictions of an arcane federal law, Southwest Airlines has declared war on a statute that has stifled its growth at its hometown airport.

"Under the 1979 law, the only flights Southwest may schedule at its headquarters at Dallas Love Field are those to and from seven states. Since the law's enactment, Southwest has grown up to fly more passengers than any other U.S. carrier and is one of the few that is profitable. Still, anyone who wants to fly Southwest from Dallas to a location beyond a nearby state must first fly to a nearby city, wait at least an hour in the airport, then change planes. Southwest is forbidden to sell tickets to and from these faraway cities and can't even advertise such long-haul flights under the statute.

"The law, called the Wright Amendment after its sponsor, former Fort Worth congressman and House speaker Jim Wright, was designed to protect rival Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, located about 11 miles away, from competition by carriers at Love Field. The law has protected AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, which is based in Fort Worth and has become DFW's dominant carrier and chief moneymaker. It also has pushed up fares to and from Dallas and kept Southwest from expanding in its hometown even as it has spread to 59 other cities, where it typically offers long-haul flights to many destinations and has prompted rivals to cut their fares."

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