20.5.05

N. Dallas Chamber Official Statement

For the most part, this is nicely done. Unlike D/FW's "independent" study, it is well-written and probably cost a LOT less. We had not even considered the idea of a phased-in repeal. Might not be a bad idea.

However we can't help but notice that the Chamber missed the bigger picture: a free market. We heard a soundbyte on the radio from a chamber member who is also a former SWA honcho saying the market has determined that the days of Wright are numbered. Too bad they couldn't have said that in their study.

A couple of other observations.

Dallas convention business might be down because of high airfares... but there are ways around that. Its likely that the well publicized HIGH CRIME rate in downtown Dallas (you know, near the Convention Center) might be running some potential conventioneers off as well. But that is an issue for another blogger.

And while lower fares are always nice for us high fliers, shouldn't we really be focused on letting the market decide what is best for north Texas?


Position Statement on Wright Amendment Repeal

Stephen Taylor - President
Corey Hill - Director, Communications

DALLAS, May 19, 2005 -The North Dallas Chamber of Commerce's comments on the current and future use of Dallas Love Field and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Philosophical Position:


The Dallas-Fort Worth region is fortunate to possess two premier aviation assets. Dallas taxpayers own 100% of Love Field and a 70% stake in DFW International Airport and are entitled to have these aviation assets managed locally to encourage the competition that will result in maximum benefit to the taxpayers, the region and the traveling public. Therefore, the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors supports phased-in repeal of the Wright Amendment.

Background:

To evaluate the best way to manage these aviation assets, the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce (NDCC) established a Task Force in December, 2004 to examine the current issues surrounding control and use of DFW International Airport and Love Field.

Over the past six (6) months, the Task Force has met with representatives of DFW, Love Field, local neighborhood groups, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and local economists. As a result of these meetings and the review of other background materials provided by Task Force members, the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors makes the following findings and recommendations.

Findings:

  • 1. Wright Amendment
    a. The Wright Amendment restricts the City's ability to manage its aviation assets--specifically Love Field-to their best use or value, in accordance with the Love Field Master Plan.
    b. Uncertainty surrounding the Wright Amendment's continued existence is harming the region's ability to attract new carriers. c. High airfares to Dallas have discouraged the attraction of convention business to the city, according to the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau. d. Increased competition would yield lower air fares at both airports, which would in turn increase air traffic at both airports, resulting in greater economic benefits to our region's economy and reducing each airport's dependence on any single carrier.
  • 2. Love Field
    a. The Master Plan is the principal management tool for Love Field and has been since its adoption by the Dallas City Council in 2001. b. The current Love Field configuration (number of gates, number or length of runways) is in place and should remain, as provided in the Love Field Master Plan. c. No argument has been advanced that suggests that any change in economic conditions generally or the aviation business specifically has undermined the validity of the conclusion reached by the Love Field Master Plan (i.e. that 32 gates maximizes economic benefit, consistent with minimal adverse effects on Love Field Stakeholders).
  • 3. DFW International Airport
    a. Financial implications of repeal may be significant, in the near-term.
    b. DFW International Airport's financial health must be an assured outcome in the long-term.
    c. DFW International Airport will continue to be the dominant airport for our region and the only international airport.

Recommendations:

  • The City of Dallas should:
  • 1. Work with our local Congressional Delegation to re-claim control of our aviation assets by supporting a 2-5 year phased-in repeal of the Wright Amendment. A phased implementation of Wright Amendment repeal would provide the needed change, but also would insure orderly adaptation to the effects of such change.
  • 2. Seek immediate removal of the marketing, through-ticketing and checked-baggage restrictions as currently provided in the Wright Amendment.
  • 3. Affirm the Dallas City Council's unwavering support of the Master Plan, specifically as it pertains to thirty-two (32) gates maximum. The Master Plan should continue to serve as Love Field's management tool in the future.
  • 4. Ensure ongoing compliance with the phased Terminal Area and Airside Development Plans contained in the Master Plan as adopted by the City of Dallas in 2001.
  • 5. If future developments make it appropriate, re-convene the Master Plan Advisory Committee to ensure that the Plan continues to address the needs and concerns of all stakeholders (i.e. local residents, businesses, airport tenants, airlines and others affected by Love Field).
  • 6. Ensure that the Competition Plans, as filed with the Federal Aviation Administration by DFW International Airport and the City of Dallas for Love Field, remain relevant. Consider creating an advisory committee to recommend ways to coordinate use of DFW International and Love Field Airports and to maximize support of regional economic development, including convention attraction and business relocation.
  • 7. In anticipation of Wright Amendment repeal, develop its own plan to realize the $1 billion in regional economic impact as forecast in the Master Plan (assuming 32 gates).

Conclusion:

The North Dallas Chamber of Commerce affirms its belief that local management and stakeholder involvement in Dallas' aviation assets will yield their "best use" for the community. The Master Plan is proof that this can be done. The NDCC will remain actively involved, as we have done continuously for many years now.


About the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce
The North Dallas Chamber of Commerce is an association of businesses and individuals who come together to promote the most favorable environment for business. We are here to create a great place to live, work and grow. We promote a better quality of life for ourselves and our kids. It's that simple. The chamber is a place to talk about vital issues. It's a place to take action. It's a place to meet people and make new clients (and maybe even some new friends).

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NORTH DALLAS CHAMBER OPPOSES WRIGHT!

It's only a matter of time now friends and neighbors. Only a matter of time:

Group opposes Wright

North Dallas Chamber says lifting law would boost city's economy

Thursday, May 19, 2005
By ERIC TORBENSON / The Dallas Morning News

A powerful Dallas business group said Thursday that the Wright amendment is bad for the city's economy and its repeal would provide a billion-dollar-a-year economic boost.

The law is choking Dallas' growth by keeping airfares high and hurting the city's convention business and tourism, according to a task force from the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

The group challenged the city to "take back its airport" by lobbying to gradually lift the restrictions at Dallas Love Field that limit commercial flights to nearby states.

"I don't know of any other major city with two airports that treats one like a crown jewel and the other like a red-headed stepchild," said Sam Coats, a member of the chamber's task force.

"Dallas needs to utilize its asset," said Mr. Coats, a former executive at defunct Braniff Airways as well as at Southwest Airlines Co., by far the dominant carrier at Love Field.

Southwest, which wants the federal law repealed so it can fly around the country from Love Field, praised the chamber's stance.

"The North Dallas Chamber's opinion reinforces the sentiment of the flying public that North Texas deserves access to lower fares through repeal of the Wright amendment," said Southwest spokeswoman Ginger Hardage.

But American Airlines Inc., which along with Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has strongly opposed any changes to the law, called the chamber's thinking shortsighted.

"Southwest wants Dallas to cut off its arm," said American spokesman Tim Wagner. "The North Dallas Chamber is suggesting they start one finger at a time."

The chamber, which represents such major local employers as Texas Instruments Inc., took six months interviewing airlines, airports and other parties affected by the Wright law.

It concluded that the law limits Dallas' appeal as a place to do business. Among the task force's recommendations:

•Gradual repeal of Wright restrictions over two to five years. Southwest would add service, average fares for the region would drop and the local economy would benefit.
•Immediate lifting of rules that require passengers traveling beyond Wright states to purchase two tickets. Often, this offsets any fare advantage.
•Keeping the Love Field master plan to govern growth there. The plan cannot be changed simply because there's no Wright amendment, said Steve Joiner, who headed the chamber task force.

For now, chamber officials said, they're more concerned about Love Field shrinking.

Love Field has lost two of its four airlines since the master plan came into effect in 2001. Southwest has cut its daily flights to 117 from about 145.

Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said this week that more cuts could come if the Wright law stays in place. And credit agencies have cut Love Field's bond ratings as passenger traffic has dropped.

Countering D/FW

The chamber's statement Thursday counters D/FW's primary argument that tinkering with the Wright amendment would harm the region's economy.

D/FW executives regularly refer to their airport as the region's main economic engine.
"D/FW has broad business community support across North Texas among those who understand the ramifications of a weakened economic engine," said Jeff Fegan, the airport's chief executive.

"We know people are beginning to understand that is not about low fares, but about a single airline trying to dictate public policy and keep new airline competition out of North Texas," he said.

D/FW released a study this month showing it could lose up to 35 percent of its passenger traffic and 204 daily flights if Love Field were opened up to long-haul flights.

The chamber's statement acknowledges the importance of D/FW, saying it would remain the region's dominant airport and the sole facility for international flights. The plan also seeks to soften any financial blow to D/FW by staggering the repeal over several years.

Repeal of the Wright amendment would not threaten D/FW's ability to pay back several billion dollars in revenue bonds used to finance its new international terminal and Skylink train system, but it would raise costs for its airline tenants and dissuade other carriers from using D/FW, airport officials said earlier this month.

Officials undecided

The chamber's findings didn't seem overly persuasive to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who had called for more study on the Wright issue.

"Sen. Hutchison appreciates the chamber's hard work and will carefully study their findings," her spokesman said. "However, in the chamber's own report, they state that the financial implications of repealing the amendment may have significant near-term implications. That is exactly what Sen. Hutchison wants to avoid."

Phillip Jones, chief executive of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, said airfare costs are something his sales team monitors, but "it's not the main reason keeping business away."

Under review

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller was reviewing the chamber's conclusions, her spokesman said.


The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce has long backed the Wright amendment and passed a resolution supporting keeping the law in the place. A call to the Greater Dallas Chamber wasn't returned Thursday.

The North Dallas chamber wants to avoid lawsuits, hoping that leaders will broker a long-term plan to use both airports.

"We don't need a donnybrook in the metroplex at this time," Mr. Coats said. "We need level heads right now."


Staff writers Robert Dodge in Washington and Suzanne Marta in Dallas contributed to this report.
E-mail
etorbenson@dallasnews.com