18.5.05

A Voice of Reason in FW?

We don't often expect to hear this sort of thing coming out of Fort Worth, yet here it is. We have inserted some of our own offerings in the following op/ed piece from the Star-Telegram:

Airport's supporters exaggerate its impact

By Mitchell Schnurman
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Maybe Dallas/Fort Worth Airport should just declare itself Economic Engine For Life.

The airport has been claiming to be the source of our prosperity for so long, and so many government officials have parroted the line, that most people accept it as fact.
Don't buy the hype.


It's the market -- the people and the companies of North Texas -- that have made D/FW Airport into something special, not the other way around.

Obviously, the airport and American Airlines' reach make it an important, valuable asset. In its infancy, D/FW represented a genuine breakthrough in cooperation for Fort Worth and Dallas, and it's been a factor in relocations and business expansions that have fueled the region's growth.

That doesn't mean it should be the tail that wags the dog.

D/FW's staff and their supporters regularly exaggerate its impact, even calling it the economic engine of North Texas in the airport's annual report. At last week's news conference on the Wright Amendment, D/FW's chief operating officer said the airport is envied around the world and is responsible for more than 260,000 jobs.

That's 10 times the number of workers at the area's largest employer. What can they possibly be taking credit for?

We're used to plenty of self-serving promotion these days, but this isn't innocuous puffery.
By claiming to be our economic driver, D/FW can claim that any challenge to the airport is a challenge to our economy, even to our way of life.


Complete the chain of thought, and you get: "What's bad for D/FW is bad for North Texas."
It's not just the D/FW staff making such claims; the mayors say it, and members of Congress, and chamber officials, and economic development folks. So airport executives say that proves that it's true.


The numbers show otherwise, and we'll get to those later.

I say the tag line is dangerous because it lets the bureaucracy wrap itself in the flag. Oppose D/FW in the Metroplex, and you might as well be slamming America and apple pie.

(hold on just a cotton-pickin' second. have we somehow gotten so far off track that standing up for free markets has become un-American? if so, what a sad statement on the current conservative movement and on American society as a whole.)

The line has been trotted out for small issues and large. And it's the underpinning of the arguments against lifting the Wright Amendment.

Two years ago, I wrote a column against a $1 drop-off fee proposed by the airport, because it nicked consumers and did nothing to address the huge debt coming on. In an op-ed piece, airport spokesman Ken Capps defended the move and wrote, "D/FW takes very seriously its role as the economic engine of North Texas."

Well, in that case, let's not derail the economy.

(ouch...that's gotta sting)

Of much greater consequence is the debate over the Wright Amendment. D/FW paid $100,000 for a study that documents all that it could lose if the law is repealed, from passenger traffic moving to Love Field to fewer connecting flights at D/FW.

(heh heh. for a second there we thought he said they paid 100K for that piece of junk. boy if that had been true...........whats that?.........wha?............. sweet fancy moses you gotta be kiddin'. we are in the wrong business, friends.)

But it doesn't say anything about what the region might gain from lower fares and more direct service.

To me, that's the big question: What we gain versus what we lose.

Maybe that assessment is unnecessary if you accept that D/FW is the economic engine. Under that thinking, if the engine sputters, the whole region stumbles.

That's what Jeff Wentworth, the former Fort Worth city councilman who's now airport board chairman, said at the news conference.

"It is very clear that any repeal of the Wright Amendment severely weakens our No. 1 economic engine to the detriment of all of North Texas," Wentworth said, reading from a script.

He also called D/FW "the region's most treasured, most economically vital asset."

Isn't this public infrastructure we're talking about? It's not Texas Instruments, Lockheed Martin, Alcon Labs, the convention and tourism business or a university system.

In my mind, D/FW is more like our network of highways and rail lines or the electric grid. When you talk about economic engines, I think of the auto industry in Michigan, Silicon Valley in California or Wall Street in New York.

(spot on, brother. preach it!)

In the Metroplex, consider defense manufacturing, the oil industry, electronics and logistics -- all of which were creating jobs around here well before D/FW opened.

And if D/FW is our engine today, how come our economy did just fine in the past decade, and the airport's numbers look like it's 1995?

D/FW has had a tough go of it, with 9-11, American Airlines' problems and the closing of Delta's hub. It projects 55 million passengers this year, which would be less than it handled a decade ago. Cargo and flight totals are also lower than in 1995.

In an interview Tuesday, D/FW Chief Executive Jeff Fegan said the numbers within the numbers are stronger. There's more local traffic within the total and more heavy-duty shipments in the cargo category, he said, and both add more value to the economy.

Fine, but over the same time, Metroplex jobs grew by 17 percent, the population by more than a quarter, and building permits surged.

I'll buy that D/FW contributes a lot, but the No. 1 economic engine in the region? I told Fegan that I don't see it that way.

"If you want to say the world is flat ..." Fegan said.

(pardon our english, but what a pantload.)

Any other members of the Flat Earth Society out there?

(well, we'd propose a name change but we will join nonetheless)

Mitchell Schnurman's column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. schnurman@star-telegram.com

Chamber to offer opinion on Wright

The North Dallas Chamber of Commerce will make a recommendation Thursday on whether the Wright Amendment, which restricts flights out of Dallas Love Field, should be repealed. The organization, which represents business in North Dallas, has studied the case and met with representatives of American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Dallas Love Field, neighborhood groups and area economists. Southwest Airlines is campaigning to have the federal law repealed, while American and D/FW Airport officials have lobbied to keep the restrictions.

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.

velotta@lasvegassun.com

Suspense In St. Louis

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Airlines square off over routes to Dallas
By
Sunday, May. 15 2005

St. Louisans who fly from Lambert Field to Dallas have a big stake in a Texas-style, bare-knuckles brawl between two of the nation's largest airlines.

American Airlines flights between Lambert and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport - one of the most frequent routes from St. Louis - can cost significantly more than trips of a similar length to cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Oklahoma City and Columbus, Ohio. Fares for those four cities were 43 percent to 82 percent less than a Dallas trip, according to a Post-Dispatch review of prices posted on American's Web site.

Part of the reason for the higher Dallas fares is that St. Louis is on the wrong end of a federal law passed in 1979 that prevents low-cost Southwest Airlines from flying direct to most U.S. cities from its home base at Dallas Love Field. As a result, American holds a near-monopoly on the route between St. Louis and its superhub in Dallas.

The situation has caught the interest of Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, the Judiciary and Housing and Urban Development.

"Sen. Bond will assess all of the information as the facts are gathered from all sides. Obviously, a main concern of the senator's is how any legislative action will affect Missouri," Bond spokesman Rob Ostrander said in a statement.

Southwest says it wants to ease the pain of consumers by having the 1979 law called the Wright Amendment repealed; it prohibits the airline from offering for sale or providing transportation between Love Field and any point beyond Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Mississippi and Alabama.

Free from the shackles of Wright, Southwest said, it would be able to spur competition on direct flights between St. Louis and Dallas, and other city pairs, lowering ticket prices.

Southwest hopes to capture support from consumers with its newly launched Internet site titled "Wright is Wrong! Set Love Free" at www.setlovefree.com

American says Southwest's campaign is a red herring to deflect attention from its refusal to operate from nearby Dallas/Fort Worth. Instead, Southwest is keen to expand operations at Love, while avoiding head-to-head competition with American at Dallas/Fort Worth.

"We offered $22 million to attract Southwest, which equals one year of free rent," said Kevin E. Cox, chief operating officer at Dallas/Fort Worth. "In lieu of waging war ... Southwest has the freedom to fly out of here today. It doesn't take an act of Congress and they can make money. That's a pretty good deal."

Southwest doesn't think so. One of the reasons the carrier regularly turns a profit - an oddity in the troubled airline industry - is because it operates from secondary airports such as Love Field when it can, keeping its costs down and its flights away from cutthroat price wars.

"There's no reason to deviate from the only successful business model in the airline industry," said Ron Ricks, a senior vice president at Southwest. "Why would we junk it to go out to DFW airport? That's the antithesis of our business model."

He said if Southwest split operations between Love and Dallas/Fort Worth, it would end up competing against itself. He also conceded that American's buildup at Dallas/Fort Worth, which he says will approach 1,000 daily flights next year, would pose insurmountable competition.

"Any airline that tries to go up against American at DFW will lose," Ricks said. "American will have more flights than you have to any destination and prices will be so low you can't compete."

American flights between St. Louis and Dallas/Fort Worth - about 10 daily - didn't look competitive on Friday when the Post-Dispatch reviewed routes of similar length to other cities.

The review showed that Dallas/Fort Worth flights were much more expensive for travel over the Fourth of July weekend, for example.

The price of an American ticket between Dallas/Fort Worth and Lambert cost $210 for the 1,100-mile round-trip flight.

Flights to Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio, and Detroit ranged from $115.50 to $146.98 on American.

On a cost-per-mile basis, the price differences narrowed. The DFW-Lambert flight would cost passengers the equivalent of 19 cents per mile, compared with 13 cents or 14 cents per mile for the four other cities. The prices do not include taxes, security fees and federal airport levies.

The Wright amendment, named for former Texas Democratic congressman and House Speaker Jim Wright, intended to prevent Love Field from becoming a serious competitor to Dallas/Fort Worth.

As Cox of Dallas/Fort Worth explained, the federal government in the 1960s urged Dallas and Fort Worth to collaborate on one metropolitan airport rather than have taxpayers support four smaller regional venues.

Bond ordinances mandated that Dallas/Fort Worth be the only airport for airlines with federal certification. Bondholders didn't want revenue diverted from Dallas/Fort Worth, ensuring payment of the airport's construction debt.

Southwest, then a fledgling airline, remained at Love Field because it only flew inside Texas and didn't need a federal certificate.

In the late 1970s, Wright, who represented a district that included Fort Worth, wanted to shut Love Field down, but his amendment ultimately was a compromise that allowed Southwest to fly to four contiguous states from Love.

"Herb Kelleher, Mr. Wright will tell you, was tickled pink with the amendment," Cox said, referring to Southwest's legendary chairman. "He got more than he thought he would ever get. There was no lawsuit and he got a safe harbor that allowed him to operate out of a ... lower cost airport without competition from the big carriers."

Later, three other nearby states were added.

Kelleher apparently saw competition between Love and Dallas/Fort Worth as unhealthy, according to a study released last week by Dallas/Fort Worth. The study cites a 1990 deposition of Kelleher taken in a court case.

The study by Simat, Helliesen & Eichner Inc., an aviation consultant, concluded that repeal of the Wright Amendment would cost Dallas/Fort Worth some 204 flights a day and 21 million passengers annually and slash passenger traffic to levels seen 20 years ago.

The study predicts it would take Dallas/Fort Worth 20 years to recover.

Ricks of Southwest said an expansion by Southwest at Love would spark healthy competition, actually spurring demand for airline travel while increasing flights and passengers at Dallas/Fort Worth.

Cox and other Dallas/Fort Worth officials, however, are not ready to test that thesis.

Dallas/Fort Worth has bet a lot on maintaining the status quo. The airport holds $3.6 billion in bond debt from construction of a new international terminal, the Skylink people mover and other improvements.

"Competition between airlines is fantastic," Cox said. "But not between airports that are eight miles apart and have common ownership. When you unravel a hub, it has a negative impact on the entire community. I think the people in St. Louis know about that."

Reporter Tim McLaughlin E-mail: tmclaughlin@post-dispatch.com

Watching Closely In Memphis

It makes sense that Memphomaniacs would be quite interested in the ongoing saga. One of us knows several from that great city who regularly drive to Little Rock so that they can fly Southwest. The Memphis airport is a Northwest Airlines hub and has a stranglehold there. Its frustrating for Memphians especially when their airport is located a mere 12 miles from the Wright boundary.

Memphis Business Journal

From the May 13, 2005 print edition

Southwest fights for right to fly
Amos Maki

A legal battle between two airlines in the heart of Texas could have major implications for Mid-South travelers.

Southwest Airlines, the nation's most popular and profitable discount airline, is waging a public relations and lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill to repeal a 26-year-old law that restricts flights on full-size jets from Dallas' Love Field to destinations in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. In 1997, the law was amended to add Mississippi, Kansas and Alabama. Southwest is based in Dallas, where American Airlines has a monopoly on Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and is fighting to keep the law in place.

Southwest officials say repealing the federal law would remove one hurdle from serving Memphis. Other barriers remain, however, including the lack of flyers who use Memphis as a destination or point of origin and Northwest Airlines' domination of the local market.

"If we made an announcement tomorrow that we're coming to Memphis, it's against the law to have traffic from Dallas to Memphis," says Ed Stewart, spokesman for Southwest Airlines.
Southwest officials say establishing service from Dallas to Memphis would improve Memphis' chance of getting service from Southwest because they could use Dallas as a destination or connecting city to establish traffic in Memphis. From Memphis, Southwest could serve Chicago's Midway Airport.


Dallas and Chicago are huge destination points for Memphis area travelers. According to data from 2003, Chicago ranked second as an origin and destination point for Memphis International Airport, while Dallas ranked fifth.

Larry Cox, president and CEO of the Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority, has courted Southwest for two decades. He is confident Southwest will one day enter the Memphis market, but he isn't so sure repealing the Wright Amendment would automatically bring the discount carrier to town.

"We've been trying to get Southwest here for a long time, but they have not made any commitment to me that the repeal of the Wright Amendment would get them in," Cox says. "It would probably help Nashville to our detriment."

Southwest is able to serve Nashville, but none of its flights are direct from Dallas. Nashville is Southwest's 10th busiest airport in terms of daily departures, with 85 daily non-stops to 27 cities with connections available to 27 other cities. The airline operates 10 gates and employs 394 people in that city.

For years, Memphis travelers have been making trips to Nashville and Little Rock, Ark. -- where Southwest offers 14 daily non-stop departures to seven cities -- to take advantage of the airline's discount prices.

Robert Dow, a controller with Acoustic and Specialties, Inc., a commercial interior contractor in Memphis, lived in Dallas for eight years and was accustomed to having price-competitive travel options. Now, he says he would rather drive to Arkansas to catch a flight.

"Northwest has a stranglehold on Memphis-based air travel," he says. "Memphis, not just Dallas, is hurt by the Wright Amendment. Why else would so many people, myself included, rather drive two hours to Little Rock and fly Southwest Airlines than to pay the exorbitantly high ticket prices commanded by Northwest?"

Southwest has heard the cries from Memphis.

"I know the pain people in Memphis probably feel and it's no small pain," Stewart says.

Northwest is the dominant carrier in Memphis. The Eagan, Minn.-based airline and affiliates Mesaba and Pinnacle Airlines operated 224 of the 283 daily flights from Memphis International in March 2005. The airline offers nearly 90 destinations from Memphis.


Southwest officials acknowledge the challenge Northwest would pose if they entered the local market.

"They play hardball," Stewart says. "You better be ready to get in the ring with a heavyweight. When you go to a fortress hub, you better expect big, silver bullets to be coming your way."
Northwest, the nation's fourth-largest carrier, has no official position on the Wright Amendment and says it isn't afraid of the possible competition from Southwest. In Memphis, Northwest has some low-fare competition from Air Tran and America West and the airline competes directly against Southwest in Detroit.


"Northwest competes with those carriers on the basis of price, service, frequency and breadth of destinations," says Thomas Becher, spokesman for Northwest. "We believe that Northwest's product offers Memphis area travelers a superior experience in many ways, including international service."

The Wright Amendment was enacted to protect Dallas-Fort Worth airport and, Southwest would say, the airlines it serves, from competition. For many years Southwest was neutral on the law. Those days, however, are long gone and Southwest has no intention of backing down now.

"We've lived with this misery for 26 years and as long as it takes, this fight will go on," Stewart says.

CONTACT staff writer Amos Maki at 259-1764 or at amaki@bizjournals.com

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

Love-area Citizens Slam Repeal

One must question the wisdom of these people. And the stance of the City of Dallas in general. One one hand, we used to live directly under the approach path near DFW and it loud. On the other hand, for a city so intent on bringing in new businesses, it seems like a bad idea to shoot a big middle finger at one of the largest and most distinguished. If we ran an airline where we were restricted at our own home airport and got nothing but the badmouth from everyone in town, we'd consider asking San Antonio or Austin how they'd like to have relocate to their area.

Wright squabble escalates

Dallas: As neighbors fight to keep law, airline expects minimal effect

Saturday, May 14, 2005

By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News

Debate over the Wright amendment is swirling around Dallas-area airports and corporate headquarters and before congressional leaders in Washington, D.C.

But as lawmakers contemplate lifting long-haul flight restrictions at Dallas Love Field, their toughest foes may be found in neighborhoods adjacent to the airport, where residents are no strangers to battling the airlines.

"We intend to use every means at our disposal – it's the full fire drill," said Pat White, co-chair of the 25-year-old Love Field Citizens Action Committee. "If the Wright amendment is taken away, it can't be replaced."

(Yes. It can.)

In November, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines unexpectedly announced that it would seek a repeal of the Wright amendment, which restricts airlines serving Love Field to routes within Texas and its adjacent states. The law – enacted in 1979 to protect Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport from competition – was amended in 1997 to add Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi.

Since that announcement, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, has committed to pushing such a repeal bill. Fellow Republicans, including John McCain of Arizona and Trent Lott of Mississippi, also have expressed interest in it.

American Airlines, the Fort Worth-based industry giant, and D/FW Airport launched an immediate defense of the act, arguing that such a move could cripple the airport and throttle the large but struggling airline.

The Love Field Citizens Action Committee took Southwest's move far more personally.
What residents have dubbed the "surprise attack" on the amendment was viewed as a slap in the face to civic leaders who, four years ago, worked for a compromise with the airline on a number of neighborhood quality-of-life issues.


Success in Houston

Southwest points to Houston's Hobby Airport as an example of its intentions. That unrestricted airport has about 25 more daily departures than Love Field, officials note, and it "peacefully coexists with the larger hub airport George Bush Intercontinental."

Airline officials say increased noise won't be an issue if the Wright amendment is rescinded. The airline retired its loudest planes in January and replaced them with 737-700s, which are quieter and gain altitude more quickly.

"We have refurbished our fleet with new-generation airplanes that emit even less emissions," Mr. Kelly said. "Even with 32 gates, the noise levels will be less" than they are now.

The Love Field Citizens Action Committee has mobilized before, and it will mobilize again, Ms. Palmer said, noting that this is probably the eighth time in 20 years that it has defended the Wright amendment. Neighbors are sending out fundraising letters and accepting donations. They'll head to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress if they have to, Ms. White said, just as they have before.

"The argument that Southwest's future is being denied, that lifting the Wright amendment is an inevitability – we have never bought that," Ms. Palmer said. "It's our only protection."