ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Airport officials are bracing for significant Southwest Airlines flight losses next year when part of a federal law expires that now forces many flights to or from Dallas Love Field to land in Albuquerque.
The provision known as the Wright Amendment only allows direct flights to or from Love Field to destinations within Texas and nearby states. It has benefited Albuquerque because Southwest flights headed farther west have needed to land here before sending passengers on to destinations like Los Angeles or Las Vegas.
The amendment is set to expire in October, and airport officials expect Southwest to cut its flights to Albuquerque International Sunport.
“It’s going to be a negative impact, there’s no doubt about that,” city Aviation Director Jim Hinde told the Journal (http://bit.ly/1fyAfO4). “(It’s) certainly not going to be positive.”
Southwest says it’s “too early to tell” what the impact will be at Sunport.
“We’re excited that we’ll be able to offer nonstop service out of Dallas Love Field, but at this point, we do not know what our service options will look like,” Southwest spokeswoman Michelle Agnew told the Journal in an email.
Southwest has been the Albuquerque International Sunport’s leading carrier for decades, typically representing as much as 60 percent of the airport’s business. This month, it has 38 of the airport’s 78 daily departures and has maintained its dominant position even after the recent elimination of several short-haul routes from Albuquerque to cities like El Paso, Lubbock, Midland and Tucson.
Airport officials think it’s possible destination cities may be cut, but more likely is the number of daily flights.
“We do think there will be some frequencies that go away,” said Dan Jiron, the Sunport’s public relations and marketing manager. “There may not be as many flights to Los Angeles or Vegas or some of the other destinations west simply because they don’t have to stop in Albuquerque now.”
While city officials can only guess at Southwest’s plans, they say they’ve been preparing for several years to weather potential cuts and expect to remain in solid financial shape.
The Wright Amendment, part of the International Air Transportation Competition Act of 1979, was designed to protect the then-new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.