City Of Tyler On The Fence

Tyler Morning Telegraph

GREG JUNEK, Business Editor
May 14, 2005

Tyler Pounds Regional Airport's boardings have fluctuated over the years, but with two stable commuter airline connections in a post 9/11 world they are on the rebound.

But city and economic development officials are wondering if a proposed repeal of the Wright amendment would be detrimental to those numbers.

City and economic development officials are keeping their eyes on whether Southwest Airlines at Love Field will find a sponsor for a bill to repeal the Wright amendment.

The amendment to federal law, introduced by former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright and passed in 1979, was intended to protect Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport from competition. It allows flights from Love Field only to cities in Texas and Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Mississippi and Alabama.

Southwest initially opposed the amendment and later took a neutral position toward it. But last year it began a campaign to repeal the amendment in hopes to establish long-haul flights to East and West Coast destinations with high traffic.

Dickson and others said concern lies in whether American Eagle would curtail Pounds service to begin serving Love Field if the Wright amendment were repealed.

Dale Morris, American Airlines government affairs representative, in late April asked the Tyler Airport Advisory Board to encourage legislative representatives to oppose the repeal.
Randy Grooms, chairman of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Aviation Committee, said his committee is studying the issue, and it plans to hear from an American Airlines representative during a May 24 meeting.

"We tentatively have some concern about what the loss of air traffic would do to the airport here in Tyler," Grooms said. "If American discontinues some flights into Tyler, we feel like it may be a disadvantage to all the parties involved from a local standpoint."

Grooms said he does not know of any airline that would be willing to come "take up the slack" if American were to discontinue some Tyler flights.

Tom Mullins, chamber president and CEO, said the chamber board might take a position on the proposed amendment repeal if the Aviation Committee presents it with a recommendation.
But before chamber can take a position, "we want to hear the other side," he said.

"American has made it clear that if (the amendment) is repealed it will have to divert part of its fleet to Love Field to compete head to head with Southwest, and the fleet that they would most likely use would be the fleet that is currently serving their regional market," Mullins said.

He also said American has not said a repeal would affect Pounds service or if support for American from the chamber, city or community would guarantee the current service would continue.

D-FW is no longer in its infancy, and Mullins said he believes a feeling exists among the general public that the amendment should be repealed.

"But on the other hand, nobody wants to hurt D-FW," he said, adding Delta Airlines pulled out and airport is going through an expensive upgrade. "Nobody wants them to get into trouble because they have lost market share."

Greg Junek is Business editor. He can be reached at 903.596.6280. e-mail: business@tylerpaper.com


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