The Wright Amendment

Virginia Postrel has an article begging for repeal of the Wright Amendment.

What is this law?  Years ago, when they built the D/FW airport, they wanted to make sure they routed all local traffic through that airport and strangled all the competitive airports.  The Wright Amendment says that other local airports, particularly Dallas Love Field, can only have flights to Texas and adjoining states.

Well, this sounds just like a bit of municipal priority setting, until one other fact is thrown in.  Love Field is Southwest Airlines home field.  By placing this limitation on Love field, and keeping it that way, American Airlines and Delta get an effective subsidy, ensuring that they have no low-cost competition on their longer routes. 

I lived in Dallas for years and trevelled far and wide by air.  The Wright Ammendment cost me and my company at least $10,000 over that time in higher air fares.


  1. steve:

    Repeal the Wright Amendment,


  2. John:

    For facts and details regarding the Wright Amendment, check here:

  3. dean case:

    "The Wright Ammendment cost me and my company at least $10,000 over that time in higher air fares."
    How can you say that with a strait face. Even if Wright is repealed, it is commonly agreed by experts on both sides that fares WILL NOT come down. With respect to Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, She has no clue. The Wright Ammendment is responsible for making Southwest what it is today. Southwest was one of the greatest beneficiaries of the Wright Amendment. Before Wright , Southwest was just a small carrier that only flew in the stat of Texas. Love Field has served as a protected harbor for Southwest which has a virtual monopoly at Love Field with 97% of the seats. Without Wright, Love Field would have been closed,along with Red Bird, Meecham and GSIA and Southwest would have got hammered. I am certain Southwest would not be around today if not for Jim Wright. But I guess i'm a fear mongerer.

  4. John:

    Yes, you are a fear mongerer. But it's not your fault! You are a victim of the DFW/AA/Political public relations machine that has plagued this area for quite some time. Your only flaw is that you think THE issue at hand is whether or not Southwest Airlines should be happy that they even got to stay at Love Field after DFW opened.

    That's not the issue. The issue is choice for the consumer. The same choices available to other American metropolitan regions.

    If you continue with your "a deal's a deal and Southwest should be happy" line of thinking, you're simply shooting yourself in the foot instead of dealing with the TRUE issue at hand; lack of choice for the consumer. If you purchase your airfare from DFW six months in advance and only for yourself, then you will pay only a modest premium for using DFW. But God help you if you need to change your ticket, add another family member, or travel on short notice. Then you will feel the whole-hearted wrath of why the Wright Amendment is so cruel to consumers.

    Even if you truly believe that the Wright Amendment made Southwest what it is today, please try to understand that that is not the main issue behind repealing the Wright Amendment. Lack of choice is the main offending issue.

    Here's a simple question for you:
    You suddenly need to fly to Ohio from the Dallas area to visit a sick relative. Given the choice of paying $299 (SW's most expensive ticket) to fly from Love Field or paying $755 to fly from DFW, which would you choose? And, by the way, that's only ONE-WAY.

    Obviously, you would choose $299. Unfortunately for you, YOU DO NOT HAVE THAT CHOICE now, thanks to the consumer-hostile Wright Amendment.

    Just to run the point home, I faced this exact situation last Spring when trying to get to Ohio, but HAD NO CHOICE but to take the expensive flight. The price differences can be enormous, sometimes approaching 300% markups above and beyond what Southwest "would" charge if allowed via a repealed Wright Amendment. A good comparison are their fares from Houston.

    So when you see people who wholeheartedly support the Wright Amendment, ask yourself why they are so against consumer choice? Why do they WANT to pay 40% higher average airfares? Why? You're just shooting yourself in the foot if you support the Wright Amendment.

  5. Dean Case:

    Thank you for you response to my comments. Public debate is the Holy Grail of Democracy.
    I flew DFW to Cedar Rapids last summer.I purchased my ticket for $180 two days before I flew. I used priceline. I just don't see your argument panning out. How low do you expect fares to go?
    On another note flying Southwest back from St.Louis to Dallas love, I did need a ticket the day of. I paid $470 with a layover in Little Rock. So I guess Southwest employs the same practices.
    The closer you are to departure the higher the price. That has nothing to do with Wright.
    Also, I read FightWright but didn't see any facts. All I saw was personal opinions.
    You use phrases like "victim of the DFW/AA/Political public relations machine", "consumer-hostile Wright Amendment" and your not a fear monger. Please.

  6. John:

    So you flew from St. Louis to Dallas on Southwest Airlines and paid $470? You just proved that the Wright Amendment personally cost you an extra $171! How? Because the most expensive single ticket Southwest Airlines sells is $299. But because of the Wright Amendment, you had to buy two tickets (St. Louis to Little Rock and Little Rock to Dallas requires two separate tickets), losing the advantage of a single through-ticket.

    I wish you could've bought a single ticket and saved yourself $171. You were a victim of the Wright Amendment.

    You are correct that airfare should get higher closer to departure time. That's how supply & demand works.

    I beg to differ on the factual content of the website. It contains a lot of factual data, including direct links to the FTC's findings in addition to links to several detailed articles written by respected business journalists.

    It's good to hear that Delta and AA have recently capped their domestic fares at $499. That's great. But it's still $200 more than the most expensive ticket sold by Southwest Airlines. I don't know about you, but $400 (roundtrip) is a lot of money.

  7. Tommy Payne:

    Can we get a link? 'Tis the most comprehensive blog and record of current Wright Fighting on the web.

    Great blog here. Keep it up.


  8. Jeff:

    John, in your first post you said
    "Even if Wright is repealed, it is commonly agreed by experts on both sides that fares WILL NOT come down." Everything I've read from the experts and economists, including the ones hired by DFW for a pro-Wright report say they will drastically be reduced. I haven't seen any experts say otherwise. Also, you claimed to have paid $470 for a ticket to Dallas from St. Louis. It must have been roundtrip because the highest fare from St Louis to Little Rock and Little Rock to Dallas is $95.00 for each flight. Add it up that's $190 one way to Dallas. Roundtrip it's $380 and with taxes and other fees imposed by airports and feds it may have gotten to $470, but that is Roundtrip. The One way walk up on American is $499 before taxes and fees.

  9. john:

    Hi Jeff,

    Actually, I didn't say that. Mr. Case did. The way this blog is formatted, the "Posted by" label looks to be attached to the wrong one.

    I wholeheartedly believe that repealing the Wright Amendment will bring down airfares.


  10. Dan:

    All I can say is what was once said on SNL "jane"or in this case "john you igorant slut!

  11. richard:

    What make you think Southwest will fly to cities you want non-stop
    even if the Wright admendment is repealed?

    They should have closed Love Field like the did the Denver airport.

  12. Mike Mulliniks:

    I flew to Las Vgas last year and Ohio the year before. I flew American because SWA was not able to go to those places because of the restrictions placed by the wright ammendment. If the amendment is lifted I will never fly on American again... The flight crews on Southwest are actually happy that you are on one of their flights. American seemed to have a holy than though attitude. Well that is all I have to say.... I know that if it is lifted American Airlines will fold in it's own hub.

  13. james:

    May 24, 2005

    Promise Unfulfilled Created A Monopoly for Southwest
    May 24, 2005; Page A13

    I was taken aback to read the advocacy piece in your news pages promoting Southwest Airlines' view of a dispute regarding Dallas Love Field ("Southwest's Dallas Duel -- Discounter Attacks Old Law That Crimps Its Operations1," Marketplace, May 10).

    The facts are quite simple. In the 1960s, the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth made an agreement with the U.S. government and with the airlines then serving the two cities. The U.S. had told the cities that it wouldn't provide continued support for two airports, but that if they could agree on a single airport, the government would provide help in creating it. The cities agreed to prohibit competition with DFW from any other airport, the airlines serving both city airports agreed to move and to take on the financial burden of paying off the bonds with which DFW would be built and sustained, and the new airport was built. During construction, Southwest was created, and when the airlines moved to DFW, Southwest found a legal loophole that allowed it to remain at Love Field, which is much closer to the businesses, hotels and high-income residential areas of Dallas. Thus, Southwest gained a unique monopoly position in one of the country's premier markets and avoided bearing any of the cost of creating and sustaining DFW.

    The city of Dallas could and should have closed Love Field to fulfill its promise to prevent competition against DFW, as Denver did when it closed Stapleton to prevent it from competing with the new Denver airport. Unfortunately, Dallas lacked the moral courage to fulfill its obligation. In retrospect, it was a mistake for American and others to agree to the compromise that the Wright Amendment represented, for Southwest and others now mischaracterize it at every opportunity.

    Robert L. Crandall
    Retired Chairman
    AMR Corp., American Airlines
    Gloucester, Mass.

  14. PlanoDallasOne:

    Would those folks who favor the wright ammendment explain why Miami does fine with essentially two airports, Houston does fine with two, Chicago does fine with two, Austin/San Antonio do fine with two, San Francisco does fine with 3, LA does fine with 5, NY does fine with 3, but Dallas can't have two?

    BTW, SW made their money in spite of the wright ammendment, not because of it. They spent millions in legal fees to earn the right to fly from Love Field, their airport with the most flights is PHX not LUV, and they survived the big airlines telling the oil companies not to sell them fuel in the 70's per the Harvard MBA case study that I read in MBA school.

    Why is AMR so down on Dallas that they think Dallas can only have one airport? come on guys, we are a big city now.

  15. deanCase:

    OOh. I disagreed with the experts. I must be crazy. The fact is fuel demands are on the rise while the supply isn't. It doesn't take an expert to tell you fuel prices are never coming down. In fact, what I hear from my "expert" friends in the Texas oil industry, is that very soon we'll all be paying what the europeans are paying. Thats about $4-8/gallon. Granted, airplanes use something more like kerosene. That's a little cheaper, but not much. I will always choose more people employed over one company's quest to maximize profits.
    Do I need to show examples of how SW raises fares as soon as they become that city's dominant carrier. Gee, what's happening in Seattle right now. Is Southwest once again demonstrating how they don't like competition.
    With all this jingoistic propaganda about Freedom, I was shocked today to learn that a women was kicked off a SW flight because of her T-shirt. I don't care what it said. This is supposed to be the United States of America, where you have the God given right to freedom of expression, unless your on a ("An Example of Freedom") Southwest Airplane. Southwest's idea of Freedom is one where your choice is made for you.

  16. Scott:

    In response to PlanoDallasOne. You must be an American employee to live in the Dallas area and not want the Wright Ammendment repealed. You ARE crazy. Even with fuel prices on the rise, American is still the dominant carrier in D/FW. If you look at the number of flights out of Love Field compared to American at D/FW, they still have more flights. Even if the Wright Ammendment is repealed they will still have more flights. Southwest does not mind competition. That's what they are fighting for, to promote competition which lowers air fares. It's a proven fact in many markets as shown by James referencing multiple markets with multiple airports. Quoting Herb Kelleher the Chairman of Southwest. For them to move to D/FW would be like the spider asking the fly over for lunch. They don't mind competition, but they are not stupid. American's take on the The Wright Ammendment is like Goliath saying that he is afraid of David and won't fight him if he has his sling and rock. They are also using lame tactics saying that if the Wright Ammendment is lifted that they will have to shift flights to compete and cancel hundreds of flights to smaller markets as a result. The fact is that it's BS. For one, American has been threatening to close flights at smaller markets long before Southwest made attempts to repeal the Wright Ammendment. Two, fuel prices are what is causing them to cancel flights and they are using the Wright battle to as a plea and cry for help it doesn't need. If American could, it would crush Southwest the first opportunity it had which is why it is trying to get Southwest to go to D/FW. If anyone doesn't like competition it's American. It's been proven and you can ask any AirTran employee of American's tactics at LAX. American does everything it can to try and crush it's competition.
    As far as the woman that was kicked off the Southwest plane, if you read the articles, she was asked to take it off first because of complaints from other passengers. She did so, but then put it back on, and that's why she was kicked off. Freedom of speech or not, when it offends people, and you are asked to remove it or turn it inside out, then you comply, only to revert back to deviant behavior, you deserve to get kicked off the plane. I don't know about you but I have 3 kids, and that's the last thing I want my kids subjected to is someone else's offesive personal propaganda and would have complained as well. Freedom of speech is also the freedom to complain. It's no different than some moron screaming obscenities in the vicinity of your kid.

  17. Edward:

    Southwest tries to come off as the victim here, but they're not. Know the history of the Wright Amendment before complaining about free enterprise. SWA portrays Wright to be some kind of conspiracy against them. In fact Southwest Airlines profitted through the Wright Amendment, a compromise to allow commercial flights to continue out of Love Field while giving room for the new DFW Airport to grow. Otherwise the whole blasted Love Field airport would have been shutdown. At that time SWA did not have to worry about the Wright Amendment restrictions since it was a regional carrier. Meanwhile, housing development has increased tremendously in the Love Field area because of homebuyers believing that the Wright Amendment would prevent an increased amount of traffic, both air and land. Southwest can fly whereever they choose from DFW Airport, just as they do at LAX and Sea-Tac. Furthermore, DFW Airport offered millions of dollars in incentives to take over the now defunct Delta Terminal and they refused. The only reason Southwest cannot fly long haul flights out of Dallas is because of childish stubborness on Southwest's part. Now that they're a major player in the airline industry they feel they have enough clout to influence politics.

  18. j. morgan:

    Southwest is responsible for 97% of the flights out of Love Field. If I'm not mistaken, American is responsible for 80% of the flights out of DFW. I'm no rocket scientist, but both airlines seem to hold a monopoly over these airports.Also,fact is now that it is obvious that SWA is going to fly to St. Louis and Kansas City, American has adjusted their air fares. Instead of charging approximately 600.00 non stop from DFW to these destinations they are now going to charge approx. 300.00. Amazing!!! Think thats a good deal? SWA is going to charge 129.00. Above quotes are one way. Call me crazy but I,m choosing SWA. There crews are more friendly anyhow.

  19. Bruce H:

    I have enjoyed the comments on this blog, however, I am sitting on the fence and would like to ask a few questions.

    What percentage of SWA's customers are from Ft. Worth? Do they not care about these customers? Wouldn't moving to DFW open up a whole new market for them?

    Lets face it. This is a money issue. If we are to decide on money alone, then the only answer is to scrape Love Field and get an economic development project going. The property taxes, for the Love Field property alone, would be 10 fold what SWA is paying today. The properties outside the airport would skyrocket and bring in more tax dollars. What does SWA do when the City of Dallas decides that the best use of Love Field is to shut it down?

  20. Lissa:

    "What percentage of SWA's customers are from Ft. Worth? Do they not care about these customers? Wouldn't moving to DFW open up a whole new market for them?"

    I live minutes away from DFW and I fly American because Love Field is further away and, even though everyone says American charges an arm and a leg for a ticket - and American does - I still find good ticket deals online.

    It's convenient. And if Wright is appealed and prices go down for every consumer... I'd probably still fly American because then not only would I getting a cheap fare without going through a dot com, I'd getting airline miles. (Does Southwest have a frequent flier campaign?)

    If Southwest wanted to fly long haul flights out of Love Field, it could. They'd just have fly a plane that isn't part of their uniform fleet and they don't want to buy new planes. (But then... why should they? Their current method of using a one type plane fleet have helped them become the senstation they are.)

    On a personal level, there is no pressing need for Wright to be appealed (repealed?). On a philosophical, economic level, the purpose of Wright is clearly to restrict interstate air travel from anywhere other than DFW effectively giving DFW a monopoly... and as capitalists, Americans vote no on monopolies. It's principle.

  21. Justin:

    I work for the airlines and you guys are FOOLS if you think that repealing the Wright Amendment won't lower fares. AA WON'T HAVE A CHOICE IN THE MATTER! And they are scared to death of Southwest! They have been lining their pockets for years, and when this ban is lifted, they are going to suffer from their greed. JUST LOOK AT THE FARES FROM HOUSTON!!! ITS COMMON SENSE!!

  22. Dallas Memory:

    Gary Kelly, chief executive of the Dallas-based carrier, said in order to “break the log jam” in negotiations, he’d be willing to keep any flights from Dallas Love Field inside the U.S. border and be open to decreasing Love’s 32-gate capacity.

    “International (flying) is something that is very important to D/FW Airport and Fort Worth, and it’s not to us,” Kelly told reporters after the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Dallas.

    Wait a second...wasn't it Southwest that stated 'flying outside of Texas is not important to us?' in the 70s. And wasn't it Southwest that later stated 'flying outside of our 4 state region is not important to us?'

    Dallas.....wake up.... this IS the definition of LOVE without the kiss!!

  23. Tarrant Co Resident: that Dallas, Ft. Worth, AA and SWAir have come to agreement ... JetBlue is questioning the result. They are concerned that they won't be able to acquire a gate at Love Field.

    Southwest Airlines spokesman Ed Stewart said the objections to the Love Field agreement were "bewildering."

    "Any airline that wants to serve the Metroplex can go to D/FW today and fly anywhere they want," he said. "No one is being locked out of the market."

    Now.....wait a second....isn't that what Southwest was told the entire time of negotiations?


    The Wright Ammendmant is anticompetitive. This is plain and simple logic. As far as the Ft. Worth market goes, bring the low fares, and people will drive a little farther for them.