26.5.05

Official AP Story w/Reax

This is from the newspaper in Fort Wayne, IN. They seem to be quite interested in this story as anytime news appears on Wright, they run it.

Lawmakers propose repeal of airport restriction

SUZANNE GAMBOA

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - An attempt to repeal a 25-year restriction on Southwest Airlines routes has triggered a Texas duel in the nation's capital.


Republican Reps. Sam Johnson of Plano and Jeb Hensarling of Dallas on Thursday said they would file a bill calling for immediate repeal of the Wright Amendment, which limits commercial flights from Dallas Love Field to Texas and seven nearby states. They call their bill the Right to Fly Act.


"Competition is the consumer's best friend," Hensarling said.


Johnson and Hensarling say repealing the amendment would increase competition among air carriers, leading to lower air fares.


"People have a right to choose which airport and which airline they'll use," Johnson said.


Congress imposed the Wright Amendment to protect Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the primary hub of Fort Worth-based American Airlines, against competition from Love Field in Dallas. Southwest Airlines Co. is based at Love Field. The amendment was named for former House Speaker Jim Wright, a Fort Worth Democrat.


The announcement drew criticism from several North Texas lawmakers, who planned to protest the move in a news conference Thursday afternoon.


Among the opponents of the measure is Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.


Barton, R-Ennis, will "vigorously fight any effort to repeal that measure, which has established and sustained a strong air traffic infrastructure in North Texas and ensured competitively low air fare prices for passengers," said spokesman Brooks Landgraf.


Southwest has been lobbying Congress to repeal the Wright Amendment.


Ed Stewart, a spokesman for Southwest, said the proposal is a "very significant step toward the ultimate goal of giving the people of North Texas access to low fares through unfettered airline competition."


American disagreed.


"We continue to believe that North Texas communities made the correct decision to establish DFW International Airport as the aviation gateway for the region," said American spokesman Tim Wagner. "The wisdom of that decision has been borne out over the past 32 years by the unprecedented growth of the entire region."


Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, also was not happy with the proposal.


"This is a complex and long-historied issue. Many of us have dealt with this a long time. Mr. Hensarling hasn't," Granger said in a statement. "The Metroplex delegation also has a history of working together and communicating even when we differ on an issue. I'm disappointed that Mr. Hensarling would choose to act as he has."


Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, whose district includes Love Field, has not taken a position on the issue, spokeswoman Lisa Hanna said.


Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas' senior senator, also was hesitant to throw support behind the proposed repeal.


"Hutchison believes the Wright Amendment should stay in place until an economic impact study proves there will not be negative impact on the regional airport and surrounding communities," said spokesman Chris Paulitz. "She will not agree to change the amendment until it is clear that Metroplex taxpayers no longer need the amendment to be protected."


Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has said any change to the amendment must benefit Texas without disrupting contracts and other long-term commitments in place, said Don Stewart, Cornyn's spokesman.


Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, whose district includes part of Dallas, said neither immediate repeal of the amendment nor "keeping it forever" would be a correct resolution.


"For years now, business plans that affect the regional economy and employment that affects people's lives have been built on a foundation that assumes the existence of the Wright amendment," he said. Any solution must continue current economic benefits and benefit consumers.

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