28.5.05

Cornyn Inclined To Support Wright

It's not really a big surprise, but unlike his Texas counterpart Kay Bailey Hutchison, Mr. Cornyn has been quiet on the issue until now. From the Dallas Morning News:

Senator open to hearing debate on Love Field, will meet with Kelleher

By TODD J. GILLMAN
The Dallas Morning News

Sen. John Cornyn waded into the Wright amendment fight on Friday, saying he's inclined to keep flight restrictions at Dallas' Love Field but open to hearing arguments on why it's time to revisit the issue.

Mr. Cornyn said he'll meet soon with Southwest Airlines Co. chairman Herb Kelleher, who also has lobbied Dallas Mayor Laura Miller on opening Love to long-haul flights.

American Airlines Inc. chief Gerard Arpey, who vehemently opposes such changes, met with Texas lawmakers in Washington earlier this month.

"My position right now is I don't see a huge hue and cry to repeal the Wright amendment. And I'm certainly not going to lead that charge," Mr. Cornyn told The Dallas Morning News editorial board.

(Well then you are not listenting hard enough, sir. There is a huge hue and cry. Listen to your consituents instead of the power brokers and you might change your view.)

"I may very well decide, due to settled expectations and all the history, that we ought to leave well enough alone."

Southwest dominates at Love. But under the 25-year-old Wright amendment, a compromise designed to ensure growth at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, flights from Love can only reach cities in Texas and neighboring states. Congress added Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama in 1997.

Southwest stayed neutral on Wright for years. Then, in November, it called for lifting the restrictions, triggering a lobbying frenzy.

"I've had a long train of people come through my office," Mr. Cornyn said Friday. "Almost all the people I've talked to so far have said it's important that the Wright amendment remain in place."

(Mayhap, that is because the only people allowed into the rarified air of your office are the people that can afford to pay the admission. And most of those have a financial interest in Wright or they wouldn't pay the steep admission fee.)

He noted that a lot of investment has occurred based on reliance of the deal continuing, including construction at D/FW.

Two weeks ago, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison met with Mr. Arpey and said afterward that she would be reluctant to tamper with the Wright amendment.

But three of eight U.S. House members from North Texas – all from the Dallas side of the region – say they're ready to scrap or tinker with it.

"I would say that if we were starting all over again from scratch, that my instinct was to say what's best for consumers?" Mr. Cornyn said.

"But we're not starting over. We're 30 years down the road. ... Someone has to come to me and give me a good explanation for why it would be good for consumers, good for the people who work in the industry and for the populations served by the airlines."

Mr. Cornyn said Mr. Kelleher had tried to meet with him a few weeks ago, but their schedules didn't mesh. They'll meet "soon," the senator said, adding, "I intend to listen respectfully to what he has to say."

E-mail tgillman@dallasnews.com

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