Saturday, May 7, 2011

Southwest should hurry DFW exit, Ft. Worth mayor says

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Comments  33

By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

- UPDATED (Friday May 6, at 10:58 a.m. ET): AirTran, now a subsidiary of Southwest, is being pressed to accelerate its timetable for ending service at Dallas/Fort Worth -- something it must do to remain in compliance with a compromise Southwest agreed to in 2006.

Currently, Southwest flies to Dallas Love Field, but the fine print in a 2006 compromise involving Wright Amendment prevents it from simultaneously serving both DFW and Love Field.

OTHER NEWS: Southwest Airlines traffic rises 8.7%

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Sky Talk  blog writes since AirTran became a subsidiary of Southwest this past Monday, "it had been anticipated that (Southwest) would have to end AirTran's service to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport pretty quickly because of the Wright Amendment agreement."

However, AirTran's website is still showing seats for sale out of Dallas/Fort Worth through Nov. 21. That doesn't seem to be sitting well with Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief.

Moncrief, one of the architects of the agreement, is quoted by the Star-Telegram as saying he's willing to allow Southwest "a couple of months" to draw down its DFW service.

"(B)ut to wait until December...that's not acceptable," Moncrief adds.

"Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway indicated his agreement," according to The Dallas Morning News' Airline Biz Blog.

The Wright Amendment, which dates back to 1979, had strictly limited most flights from Love Field to destinations in Texas and several nearby states. But as part of a compromise in 2006 that will eventually lead to the phase-out of the law, Southwest committed to serving one Dallas-area airport or the other -- but not both.

As part of that deal, Morning News notes Southwest would have to forfeit one gate at now-capacity-controlled Love Field (up to a maximum of eight) for every one it or an "affiliate" uses at DFW.

Subsidiary AirTran currently operates two gates at DFW, according to the paper's Airline Biz Blog.

RELATED: Southwest has 'orderly' plan to drop AirTran's DFW service

As for Southwest, its hand may have been tied from acting sooner out of antitrust laws, which prohibited it from discussing business details with AirTran until the merger officially closed on May 2.

The Airline Biz Blog quotes a letter to DFW airport by Bob Montgomery, Southwest's vice president of properties, as saying:

Antitrust constraints have prevented any planning to date, but beginning Monday, May 2, we intend to rapidly undertake such planning. Within 30 days of the merger, plans for an orderly transition will be complete, and we will be able to announce the timing and the coordination of service changes.

Posted May 6 2011 10:58AM

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