End of Wright amendment a victory for free market Love Field neighbors’ group: After end of Wright amendment, trust but verify.
President Jimmy Carter signed the Wright amendment into law, George W. Bush signed the pact to end it, and Barack Obama is president on the day it finally ends. In fact, a person born the year Love Field flight restrictions went into place is now nearly old enough to run for president.
Are there any doubts that North Texas’ longest-running aviation drama was long overdue to be mothballed?
Today, all that is history. Southwest and four other airlines will be free to fly anywhere in the country to and from Dallas Love Field, without the government telling them where their planes can stop. Score a major victory for free-market competition, consumer choice and the North Texas economy. Count this newspaper among those saying thank goodness this day has finally arrived.
Few issues were as divisive as this Rubik’s Cube of a federal law limiting nonstop flights to and from Love to a fistful of states. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was barely 6 years old when the law took effect in 1980. Many, including this newspaper, backed it out of concerns that more flights from Love would cripple the new regional airport. Southwest liked being the big dog at Love. American Airlines wanted to protect its stake at D/FW. Love Field-area residents feared that noise from more flights would cause sleepless nights. Distrust and finger-pointing continued, with no letup for decades.
But then the 21st century arrived. In 2004, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly floated the idea of ending the restrictions, an idea this pro-free-market newspaper could get behind. The restrictions no longer made economic sense, and studies showed that both airports would be better off without these handcuffs. Two years later, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison overcame a mountain of obstacles to get business groups and both airlines to compromise.
It took eight more years, but finally the Wright amendment is no more.
The journey wasn’t pretty, but the region has ended up in the right place. D/FW Airport is prospering. Southwest is no longer a plucky regional airline, but a nationwide giant. American is on firmer financial ground, too.
And Dallas wins in other ways. Daily flights will increase from 264 earlier this month to 316 today to 352 by early next month. The city has a new 20-gate terminal at Love and the promise of increased tourism and convention trade to downtown hotels, restaurants and attractions. And we’re optimistic that noise won’t be a problem for Love Field’s neighbors, given noise-reduction policies and the fact that Love Field is prohibited from adding more gates.
We wish more airlines were flying from Love Field. Still, consumers have options that didn’t exist before, and for that, North Texans should cheer the demise of the Wright amendment.