Robert Francis email@example.com
Monday, Oct. 13, it ends. That day, the Wright Amendment will be history, the 1979 law that regulated flights at Dallas Love Field and other area airports, including Fort Worth’s Meacham Field. The law was designed, for all intents and purposes, to allow the now 40-year-old Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to find its economic footing. Will the heavens fall? Unlikely. That the airport has established itself as an area economic engine is hardly debatable, though, until primary tenant American Airlines steadied its financial ship, it might have been more of a question mark. Steve Joiner, professor of marketing and logistics at the University of North Texas in Denton, said a few years ago, before American Airlines and US Airways merged, questions remained about the Fort Worth-based airline’s survival in the new world of transportation. “They always seemed to have one foot in bankruptcy, one out,” he said. That’s settled now with an improved economy, stable jet fuel prices and a more efficient fleet, he said.
Joiner also noted that in recent years there has been a change in demographics for American’s key frequent flier customers. “The airline’s key American AAdvantage [the airline’s frequent flier program] members used to live in Highland Park and Frisco, closer to Love Field. Now they’re in Southlake, Flower Mound and even southwest Fort Worth, so they’re less likely to make their way to Love Field. I see it as sort of a yawner at this point,” he said. As to creating competition to lower air fares for the area, BestFares.com’s Tom Parsons believes it will have an impact, but Bernard Weinstein, economist and associate director of SMU’s Maguire Energy Institute, is not so sure. “I don’t think it’s going to have much of an impact on Dallas/Fort Worth and American Airlines and really create much competition in the area air market,” he said. “You’re still going to have two dominant carriers maintaining a hold on their markets. On the plus side is the opening of Love Field, so if you live closer to Love than D/FW and you’re not captured by American’s Frequent Flier program, going to Love is easier, parking is cheaper – for the moment. So there’s a convenience factor, but at a forum I spoke at recently, I concluded it’s no ‘Big whup.’”
Fort Worth business leaders don’t seem too concerned about the economic impact, either. “D/FW is prepared and positioned to compete in a post-Wright environment,” said Bill Thornton, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. “They’ve taken advantage of the phase-out period to plan, to diversify carriers, to renovate terminals and make other infrastructure upgrades.” Thornton notes that D/FW Airport’s focus on new international routes, its Foreign Trade Zone status and growing cargo business, improved highway access and a stronger American Airlines put the airport in a solid position for the future.
As if to prove that point, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport recently welcomed the massive Airbus A380, a long haul international carrier, via Qantas Airways and Emirates Airlines. American Airlines also announced plans to begin nonstop service in May 2015 from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to Beijing. That would make it the third D/FW-to-China route American has launched in the last 12 months. It began flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong in June 2014. “By adding this new Beijing service, American will achieve a significant milestone in the development of its Asian network by offering nonstop service from Dallas/Fort Worth to five key markets in Asia – Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo,” American’s chief marketing officer, Andrew Nocella, said in American’s release.
“The pending addition of Beijing and recent additions of Shanghai and Hong Kong elevate Dallas/Fort Worth to one of the primary connecting hubs between Asia and destinations within the U.S. as well as Mexico, Central and South America,” he said. Just back from a trade delegation visit to Beijing and Shanghai, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said those international flights are key to new business for the area. “The direct flights to and from Shanghai and Hong Kong have already proven beneficial to our region in terms of landing new business opportunities abroad,” she said. “The announcement about the new American Airlines direct flight between D/FW and Beijing while we were in the Far East is yet another victory as we continue to expand our international routes.”