Lawmakers Spar over Dallas-Area Airport Rules

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For 26 years, restrictions at Love Field in Dallas have banned direct flights to most destinations outside Texas. Now two Dallas-area Republicans are challenging the restriction with a measure dubbed the "Right To Fly Act." Another Fort Worth-based Republican vows to do whatever it takes to protect Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport from new competition. Wade Goodwyn reports.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

A battle is escalating between two airports in the Dallas area. Two Dallas-area congressmen, Republicans Sam Johnson and Jeb Hensarling, have introduced legislation called the Right to Fly Act. It would repeal the 26-year-old restrictions at Dallas Love Field which ban direct flights from Love to most destinations outside Texas. A powerful Ft. Worth Republican then vowed he would do whatever it took to protect DFW from having to compete with direct flights from the other airport. NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports on the resulting airport intrigue.

WADE GOODWYN reporting:

First came the good news for Love Field and its main tenant, Southwest Airlines. Two north Texas congressmen were sponsoring a bill that would allow unrestricted direct flights to anywhere in the US from Love Field. It's what Southwest has been pushing for, and Southwest spokesperson Beth Harbin honored their Republican champions.

Ms. BETH HARBIN (Southwest Spokesperson): These are two tremendous leaders who are voting for the traveling public, which is what you wish for when you cast your vote on Election Day.

Mr. JEFF FEGAN (CEO): We were disappointed. We were surprised. We had been in conversations with both congressmen in the past and were led to believe that this issue wasn't going to be dealt with this year and not to worry.

GOODWYN: That's DFW international airport CEO Jeff Fegan, who, as you just heard, was not so happy about the Right To Fly Act, but Fegan felt much better after Joe Barton from Ft. Worth, who's head of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he'd do whatever it took to protect DFW.

Mr. FEGAN: That was good news for us.

GOODWYN: Southwest executives were much less thrilled with Barton's announcement, but they ended up laughing after the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reported that DFW's own studies showed that Dallas airfares would drop up to 50 percent if the Right amendment were abolished. While the Star Telegram story might be embarrassing, with the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on its side, DFW can survive a little egg on its face. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

INSKEEP: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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