Airport passenger growth in Houston vs. DallasInteresting opinion column in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram attacking American Airlines' new "independent" study showing that repealing the Wright Amendment (previous post) would be a disaster for the city. He rightly points out that the study talks about loss of service (which is nuts, because lower fares increase demand and therefore service), but completely ignores the benefits of lower fares. His interesting stats:
5% growth for Dallas vs. 44% growth for Houston - that is a huge difference. Both metros are about the same size and have grown at about the same pace, so the difference has to be the higher fares in Dallas from the lack of real Southwest competition. You gotta think they'll eventually come to their senses and repeal this thing...
Since 1994, air passenger traffic has grown almost 33 percent across the nation, according to the Transportation Department's statistics on originating traffic. But D/FW is up just 8 percent by that measure, and that's before Delta pulled 200 flights this year. Love Field passengers declined 13.5 percent over the same period, as flight restrictions prompted Southwest to shrink in its hometown and expand elsewhere.
Combined, this measure of passenger traffic in the Metroplex rose just 5.4 percent from 1994 to 2004. That stinks. But that's what happens when you miss the discount revolution, when long-haul fares are almost 40 percent higher than the national average.
Miami did worse than D/FW, but at least Fort Lauderdale doubled. Together, 40 percent more people flew out of South Florida in 2004 than in 1994. Houston's two airports were up a combined 44 percent; Chicago's two airports were up 26 percent. Atlanta was up 53 percent and Phoenix, 50 percent.
In short, the Metroplex aviation market isn't growing like the rest of the country's. Not even close. The best explanation is that we've put a regulatory fence around Southwest at Love Field, and American's dominance at D/FW is so lucrative that it vanquishes any challenger. With limited competition, there's been limited growth.