Pinnacle Airlines in fight for Love

 - September 13, 2006, 12:54 PM

If Northwest Airlines gets its way, regional affiliate Pinnacle Airlines will become one of the first competitors to Southwest and American Airlines at Dallas Love Field. But in an ironic twist, interest in flying from Love on the part of Northwest and JetBlue Airlines could become a barrier to repeal of the law that limits most commercial flights from the airport to a nine-state perimeter.

Under a compromise proposal reached by the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth, in 2014 Congress would lift the restrictions imposed by the so-called Wright Amendment and immediately allow flights from Love to anywhere in the country as long as they connect through one of the nine Wright states. But the proposal calls for demolition of the terminal from which Memphis-based Pinnacle wants to fly, leaving only the 20 gates controlled by Southwest, American and Continental Airlines.

Northwest and JetBlue argue that the plan constitutes collusion by the cities and local airlines to exclude competition. Proponents of the plan counter that those airlines could share underused gate space with the current tenants.

As the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth testified in front of the House transportation subcommittee on July 12, Pinnacle and Northwest intensified their own lobbying efforts, focused largely on Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn), who at first supported repeal of the Wright Amendment but who failed in a bid to add Tennessee to the list of states through which flights from Love may connect.