5.5.05

What is the Wright Amendment

The "Wright Amendment" is an addendum to Public Law: 96-192, the short
title of which is the "International Air Transportation Competition Act of
1979". The bill was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on February
15th, 1980 (less than one month after his first inauguration).

The amendment itself is section 29 of the act and it limits service at Dallas Love Field to flights within Texas and states contiguous to it to use only airplanes that have a capacity of 56 passengers or fewer. A recent modification to this amendment is as follows:

Section 337 of H.R. 2169 (Department of Transport Related Agencies
Appropriations Act of 1998

SEC. 337.

(a) In General - For purposes of the exception set forth in section 29 (a)(2) of the International Air Transportation Competition Act of 1979 (Public Law 96-192; 94 Stat. 48), the term "passenger capacity of 56 persons or less" includes any aircraft, except aircraft exceeding gross aircraft weight of 300,000 pounds, reconfigured to accommodate 56 or fewer passengers if the total number of passenger seats installed on the aircraft does not exceed 56.

(b) Inclusion of Certain States in Exemption - The first sentence of section 29(c) of the International Transportation Competition Act or 1979 (Public Law 96-192; 94 Stat. 48 et seq.) is amended by inserting "Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi," before "and Texas". (c) Safety Assurance - The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall monitor the safety of flight operations in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and take such actions as may be necessary to ensure safe aviation operations. If the Administrator must restrict aviation operations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to ensure safety, the Administrator shall notify the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations as soon as possible that an unsafe airspace management situation existed requiring the restrictions.

So, in a nutshell what we have here is a federal law that prohibits any airline (mainly Soutwest) from operating flights with more than 56 passengers out of Love Field if the destination is outside of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and now Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama.

Have there been previous attempts to repeal it? Sure. Court Battles? Yep. In fact Wright has gone before the U.S. Supreme Court. I guess it is smart to make sure those bribes are paid and paid on time. Here are some highlights:

In the Supreme Court of the United States

QUESTIONS PRESENTED

1. Whether the City of Dallas is precluded by the preemption provision of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, 49 U.S.C. 41713(b), or by two subsequent Acts of Congress, the Wright and Shelby Amendments, from restricting routes and services operated by airlines from its Love Field airport.

2. Whether agreements between the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport Board and various airlines, which provide that the airlines will not use competing airports such as Love Field without the Board's permission, are preempted by federal law.

3. Whether the Department of Transportation was bound by a state court judgment, recently reversed on appeal, in a suit brought by the City of Fort Worth against the City of Dallas, to which the United States was not a party and in which the state court interpreted federal statutes governing Love Field service.

4. Whether the Department of Transportation correctly construed the Wright and Shelby Amendments as permitting "through service" from Love Field when the initial portion of the trip is to another location within Texas and is made on an aircraft with a capacity of no more than 56 passengers.

For many years, the twin cities of Dallas and Fort Worth each operated their own airports, which competed to be the area's principal airport. Love Field was the local airport for Dallas. The cities resolved the dispute by agreeing to build Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW Airport). The cities' agreement, set forth in their 1968 Regional Airport Concurrent Bond Ordinance, required the cities to phase out virtually all interstate scheduled service at their local airports to the extent "legally permissible." After DFW Airport opened, Dallas continued to operate Love Field. The interstate airlines moved to DFW Airport, but Southwest Airlines, then a new airline that provided service only within Texas, refused to move. After extensive litigation, Southwest Airlines won a judgment entitling it to continue using Love Field for flights within Texas. Although Southwest Airlines initially operated only intrastate routes, after the enactment of the Airline Deregulation Act (1978), the Civil Aeronautics Board ruled, over the objection of Dallas and Fort Worth, that Southwest Airlines could operate a Love Field-New Orleans route. In response to that decision, Congress enacted the Wright Amendment, which was designed as a compromise between the two cities and Southwest Airlines. In 1997, Congress enacted the Shelby Amendment, which expands the interstate service authorized at Love Field. The Shelby Amendment clarifies subsection of the Wright Amendment as including large aircraft of up to 300,000 pounds gross aircraft weight if they are configured or reconfigured to have no more than 56 seats. The Shelby Amendment expands subsection to add three more States -Mississippi, Alabama, and Kansas-to those to which service from Love Field is permissible on an aircraft of any size. After the enactment of the Shelby Amendment, Fort Worth sued Dallas in Texas state court, contending that Dallas was constrained by the 1968 Bond Ordinance from allowing the expanded service at Love Field authorized by the Shelby Amendment. Fort Worth was supported by the DFW Airport Board and American Airlines(hello!), which has a major hub at DFW Airport. In December 1998, the state court issued a judgment holding that Dallas was obligated by the 1968 Bond Ordinance to prohibit airlines from using Love Field to serve points outside Texas and the four States identified in the Wright Amendment.

(Then a bunch of boring legalese)

CONCLUSION

The petitions for a writ of certiorari should be denied.

It is interesting that The Court brought up Houston. Seems like those filling their pockets out at IAH could make the same arguments about Hobby as those at DFW do about Love.

But they don't.

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