An airline battle is about to heat up in Texas thanks to a little-known law that is set to expire next year. The good news is that airline passengers should claim the spoils in the form of lower fares.
The so-called Wright Amendment, championed by U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Fort Worth) in 1979, was intended to restrict airline traffic out of Texas' Love Field and direct more growth toward the then-fledgling Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The legislation was supported by business interests in Dallas.
The amendment has had direct consequences for Southwest Airlines, which is headquartered at Love Field and operates one of its biggest hubs at the airport.
Over the years, many of the Wright Amendment's restrictions have phased out. The last limit prohibits nonstop flights from Love Field to 41 states, plus the District of Columbia.
Once the last restriction expires Oct. 13, 2014, Southwest is expected to add many new nonstops from Love Field, putting the low-cost airline in direct competition with American Airlines, based at DFW.
"Where Southwest decides to take on American Airlines we are likely to see spirited competition and cheaper prices for both leisure and business travelers," said Rick Seaney, founder of the travel website Farecompare.com. "American Airlines will be very aggressive in keeping its lucrative business customers. Look for them to use price-matching, loyalty miles, upgraded aircraft and increased flight frequencies."
Southwest can't wait to for the Wright Amendment to expire.
In the lobby of its Love Field headquarters, the airline has installed a countdown clock that will reach zero next Oct. 13. The slogan "Nonstop Love" is emblazoned on the clock.
"Southwest will bring our legendary fares to these new nonstops," said Southwest spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger. "Having Southwest in these nonstop markets will create competition and fares that will be good for consumers.