Nevada Senator Supports Repeal

It probably wouldn't be all that difficult to find out what consideration is given by lobbyists to our congressional delegation in return for their support on a given issue. Or more precisely what Hutch and Corny receive from agents in the employ of DFW/AA in exchange for their unwavering support of Wright.

But wouldn't it be nice to have a delegation more concerned with free markets than lining their pockets. It may be posturing on his part, but outward appearances make us envious of Nevada for having Senator Ensign on The Hill.

Ensign joins battle in Southwest's Wright fight

By Richard N. Velotta/LAS VEGAS SUN

Southwest Airlines, pressing hard for the repeal of a measure that blocks it from offering nonstop service from its Dallas headquarters to several cities on its route map, including Las Vegas, has a Nevada ally on the case: the state's junior senator, John Ensign.

Through a spokesman, Ensign said he is considering introducing legislation to repeal the Wright Amendment, enacted in 1979 to encourage development at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in its formative years.

The measure, named for former House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas, restricts travel to and from Dallas' Love Field for commercial aircraft with more than 56 seats.

It affects Southwest Airlines by allowing only flights from that airport to other destinations within the state of Texas, to cities in adjacent states and to cities within the states of Alabama, Kansas and Mississippi.

The measure also prohibits Southwest from marketing connecting flights to the Dallas airport. For example, a Southwest customer in Las Vegas cannot book travel to Dallas from McCarran International Airport. The airline does not discourage customers from purchasing two tickets to make the trip.

Ensign said he isn't quite ready to introduce a bill, but he's in a fact-finding mode.

"The senator is a free-market advocate and he saw a situation where a free-market issue exists that legislation could fix," said the senator's press spokesman, Jack Finn.

"If you look at our airport in Las Vegas, it is come one, come all, and whoever can compete, can compete," Ensign told the Dallas Morning News in a recent interview.

Finn did not indicate if and when the Republican senator would introduce legislation, nor why Ensign has a desire to carry the ball on the issue, although he is on the Aviation subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Meanwhile, Southwest has turned up the heat in an effort to win repeal of the Wright Amendment.

For years, the company maintained that it was "passionately neutral" about the measure. But late last year, the company announced that it was going to launch a bid to get it overturned.
Earlier this month, the company launched an Internet Web site, www.setlovefree.com, giving its side of the Wright Amendment issue.

"We have hard from a number of people who want more information about the Wright Amendment," said Susan Goodman, Southwest's director of legislative awareness. "Setlovefree.com will help us to educate consumers on the amendment and to update them on our efforts to get it repealed."

The Web site presents a history of the Wright Amendment, the text of the legislation as well as the text of the Shelby Amendment, which added the states of Alabama, Kansas and Mississippi to the original group covered by Wright, testimonials and invitations to forward information to friends, lawmakers and the media.

The Wright Amendment fight -- a political hot potato in the Dallas-Fort Worth area -- pits Southwest, the nation's leading low-cost air carrier, against Fort Worth-based American, the world's largest airline, and Love Field against Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

DFW, the nation's third-busiest airport, maintains that the Wright Amendment remains relevant and that repeal of the measure could result in the loss of 204 flights a day.

Airport officials commissioned a study from a Boston-based aviation consultant to review the effects of the repeal of the Wright Amendment on the Dallas area.

The study, by Simat, Helliesen & Eichner Inc., was released last week.

"We have known all along that repealing the Wright Amendment was a bad idea for DFW and the entire north Texas region," said Jeff Wentworth, chairman of the DFW International Airport Board. "But now, there is critical, independent analysis to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Repealing would basically wipe out all the progress that has helped make DFW the undisputed economic engine that drives north Texas."

The study also said repeal of the Wright Amendment could result in the amount of traffic at Love Field tripling, which would strain the older existing facilities there and cause traffic gridlock.



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