Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's the Wright Thing To Do...

The Powers that Be finally “got it” in the longstanding skirmish between Southwest Airlines and American Airlines over the over-protective Wright Amendment that competitively sheltered one airline at the expense of another.
For too long, an artificial restriction against Southwest flying from Dallas Love Field to the places people would like to go without changing planes, or in groups larger than 53-persons, had paralyzed the spirit of free commerce.

Interestingly, Southwest has prospered over the years in spite of The Wright Amendment, showing the “big boys” how its point-to-point way of routing flights, and providing exemplary service at an affordable price, could be a winning formula. The idea has caught on in other places, most notably at Jet-Blue Airlines.

The Dallas Morning News noted that a changing of the minds, a changing of the times, and a changing of the guard were the prerequisites for this historic change. Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, Ft. Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, along with Southwest Airlines Board Chairman Herb Kelleher, and the Executive VP of Marketing at American, Daniel Garton, joined the CEO of DFW Airport, Jeff Fegan, in signing a 17-point statement of intent.

Could this agreement have been reached before now? Obviously not.
It’s fair, it’s balanced, and it’s the kind of multi-faceted solution demanded by a complex issue, that at its core was fundamentally skewed to the advantage of one airport over another.

The government sometimes allows itself to get caught up in such well-intentioned schemes, only to forget over time that the times for such measures are past.

The Telecommunications Act of 1898 comes to mind, originally passed as a 1-cent “luxury tax” on telephone calls to fund the Spanish American War. Although rescinded briefly, it re-emerged as a penny-tax to fund World War 1. That was the War to End All Wars, but not all taxes, and Congress conveniently left it in place, eventually increasing the levy to 3%.

Last year, a congressional committee raised the notion of extending the “luxury tax” it to include all telecommunications, at which point Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum correctly pointed out (screamed) “communication is not a luxury. It has become part of the basic fabric of our social and economic life."

Last month, you and I stopped being assessed this assinine fine for allowing foolish government dictums to continue.
Thank you, Senator Santorum.

Does The Wright Amendment belong on the same shelf as the 1898 Telecommunications Act?
You betcha.

Now that Congress has seen the light (and the results of the Spanish American War) we can only hope they will show true courage, moral character, and a modicum of common sense (if that’s not asking too much) to repeal The Wright Amendment.
Before the end of the year.

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