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Monday, March 21, 2005

Chron editorial slams Wright Amendment

Proving the old maxim that "even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then," the Chronicle's editorial board is absolutely right about repealing the Wright Amendment. That law prevents Southwest Airlines from operating long-haul flights out of Love Field:
The restrictions might have been justified at the time in order to protect the fledgling Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and regional hub from its much smaller but more convenient inner-city rival. They also gave American Airlines, based at D-FW, an effective monopoly on long range flights from the area. As a result, American was partially protected in its North Texas market from the effects of federal airline deregulation that stimulated competition -- and lower air fares -- in other parts of the country.
The Wright Amendment now amounts to political protectionism of the most blatant kind that results in many travelers out of D-FW paying double what their counterparts in Houston pay. It is not healthy to have politicians propping up one airline at the expense of others during a time when the fallout from the 9-11 terrorist attacks has brought carriers such as Continental to the brink of bankruptcy. If Continental has to compete head-to-head with Southwest, why shouldn't American? Houston would benefit from repeal of the amendment because flights, passengers, jobs and airport fees at Hobby would increase.
I couldn't agree more. Restrictions like this one enrich airport authorities at the expense of the flying public. That said, it just wouldn't be a Chron editorial without a glaring factual error:
Unlike most other airlines, Southwest is showing a profit, but only because it hedged its fuel costs with farsighted investments on Wall Street.
Energy futures and futures options are traded at the New York Mercantile Exchange, located in Battery Park City along the east bank of the Hudson River, not on Wall Street. Nitpicky? Maybe. But I'm just trying to help the Chron reach the vaunted "ideal state."

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