Southwest steps up campaign to overturn Wright Amendment

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Southwest Airlines has moved ahead with its plan to have the Wright Amendment overturned with the launch of a new website designed to garner public support for lobbying against the 1979 law that restricts the carrier’s Dallas Love Field hub operations.

The low-cost giant yesterday officially launched its ‘setlovefree.com’ website, which Southwest calls its “latest tool in educating consumers on the importance of repealing the Wright Amendment”.

The law was introduced 25 years ago to protect the newly built Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport by limiting nonstop service from Love Field to within Texas and the four contiguous states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma. In 1997, the Shelby Amendment expanded this to include Alabama, Kansas and Mississippi.

Southwest had until last November maintained a neutral stance on the Wright Amendment issue. However, that neutrality dissolved when the carrier’s CEO Gary Kelly said publicly that he planned to be part of a campaign to lobby the US Congress to overturn the law.

“We have heard from a number of people who want more information about the Wright Amendment,” says Southwest director of legislative awareness Susan Goodman. “Setlovefree.com will help us to educate consumers on the amendment and to update them on our efforts to get it repealed.”

On its new website, Southwest calls the Wright Amendment “an anti-competitive relic” and notes that Love Field “is not a threat to DFW”.

However, DFW is fighting back by again offering Southwest an incentive package to serve the airport that includes free rent for a year and up to $22 million in other incentives.

“Southwest can have the best of both worlds at Love Field and DFW, and unite and benefit North Texas,” says DFW chief operating officer Kevin Cox in a statement.

DFW has been trying to fill 21 empty gates since Delta Air Lines reduced its daily departures from 258 to 21 on February 1.

“Instead of focusing all their employees’ time and energy on lobbying Congress to repeal legislation that helped create billions of dollars of revenue and 265,000 jobs for the North Texas region, Southwest should compete with the rest of the domestic carriers at DFW,” adds Cox.

However, Southwest on January 21 confirmed that it had turned down DFW’s incentive package, saying that the proposal did not override the carrier’s preference for Love Field.

As yet, no bills have been introduced to the Congress seeking a repeal of the Wright Amendment. However, several US senators have expressed an interest in examining the issue.