Tag Archives: Southwest Airlines

AMA: economic lure for Amarillo

I read with some interest a story this week about the Amarillo City Council approving a contract with American Airlines that sets up direct flights between Amarillo and Phoenix, Ariz.

The non-stop flights begin in April. The contract will be for one year; American Airlines will decide at the end of that year whether to extend it depending on its profitability.

My sincere hope is that American keeps the jets in the air between AMA and PHX.

Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport has been a favored lure for the city as an economic development tool. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation once subsidized American Airlines jet service between AMA and Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport; AEDC took a portion of the sales tax revenue it collects and paid the airline to maintain jet service.

AEDC eventually ended the subsidy. The airline dropped jet service for a brief period, but since has restored full jet service to DFW. It now will fly jets out of Amarillo to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

I’ve long touted the value of Amarillo’s air service to my friends and colleagues for as long as I have lived here. We don’t have many air carriers serving this community — American, Southwest and United. But two of those carriers, American and United, have plenty of international flights. When you depart AMA aboard either of those carriers, you are essentially just one stop away from connecting to flights that will take you anywhere on Earth.

Southwest is a highly profitable regional carrier and AMA gets service not just to Dallas Love Field, but also non-stop jet service to Las Vegas, Nev.

While much of our attention — mine included — has focused on downtown revival and on the extensive highway reconstruction along Interstates 40 and 27 as well as on Loop 335, we also can look with considerable pride at the airport that serves the Texas Panhandle.

I once spoke with Sarah Freese, the former aviation director at AMA, about the possibility of getting more carriers to serve this airport. She was hopeful at the time of attracting at least one more carrier. Freese has since moved on and I don’t know the status of the city’s effort to lure more carriers here. I hope it hasn’t withered away.

Amarillo’s airport remains a potentially big draw that will lead to the city’s brightening economic future.

Changes coming to AMA

The Wright Amendment expires later this year, meaning that some changes are in store for an air carrier that serves Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

Southwest Airlines, headquartered at Dallas Love Field, will reduce its daily service at AMA from seven flights to five.

What’s the connection?

Well, the Wright Amendment, enacted in 1974, was meant to protect the then-new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport by restricting travel from Love Field. Southwest Airlines planes couldn’t take off for destinations without having to stop first in close-in locations. The amendment, named after its author, former U.S. Rep. Jim Wright, D-Fort Worth, has been scrapped now that D-FW has grown up and become one of the world’s pre-eminent air terminals.

What’s in store for AMA? Two fewer Southwest flights daily, for starters. Airport officials aren’t signaling any panic. They’ll continue to compete for air service in and out of their shiny new terminal. Southwest will be able to depart Love Field for farther non-stop destinations.

Amarillo, though, isn’t without some economic weapons of its own to toss at carriers looking for a place to land. It’s used one of them with effectiveness in the past. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation once paid American Airlines more than $1 million annually to retain jet service in and out of AMA. The money came from sales tax revenue it collected, believing that the jet service would attract business to Amarillo by providing more comfortable and speedier air service. Critics scoffed at the idea of paying for jet service, but it worked. American Airlines retained the jet service, then scrapped it for a time, and then returned it to Amarillo — as well as to other regional airports around the country.

I’m not too worried that AMA is going to be left in the cold once the Wright Amendment passes into history.

However, if business falters at AMA, the AEDC has a large pile of money at its disposal to dangle in front of those who are looking for some incentives to do business with Amarillo. The precedent has been set.

Air fare glitch helps someone else … again

So help me, I need to get in the good graces of the god of Air Fare Glitches.

Delta Airlines posted some ridiculously low air fares online this week and some customer snapped up the fares. The airline company fixed the mistake, but said it would honor the fares purchased before it caught the mistake.

http://news.msn.com/offbeat/delta-to-honor-extremely-cheap-ticket-prices-posted-by-mistake

Why can’t I ever get in on that action?

Understand, of course, that Delta Airlines doesn’t fly in and out of Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, so this goof wouldn’t benefit me in the least. But other airlines have had similar problems — United, American and Southwest, for example, which do fly out of AMA.

I’m always caught flat-footed, never getting wind of these mess-ups until after they’ve been resolved.

Heck, my wife and I can barely redeem frequent-flier miles when we’ve earned enough of them to travel somewhere for “free.” I get on the website, look to book a redeem the mileage and learn that all the seats set aside for those with such awards have been taken up already. Crap!

We did hit the jackpot once, redeeming miles for a free flight to Buffalo, N.Y., to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary at nearby Niagara Falls. OK, so I’m not a total loser in this regard.

I’ll hand it to Delta, though, for honoring its mistake. I just wish I could have been one of the honorees.