What's Wright About That?

Over the weekend, I accompanied the missus to Chicago for her family reunion, which essentially consisted of a Saturday-night dinner at the famous Gibsons steakhouse (Sinatra sang there, way back when). Guess we got placed at the Texas table: Joining us were three distant relatives--a middle-aged husband and wife named Alan and Renee and Renee's brother Marvin--who spent much of the dinner pitching their hometown of Houston like they were on a Chamber of Commerce goodwill tour. Anyway, during dinner one of them mentioned how they'd flown from Houston to Chicago on Southwest. My wife said, "Wish we could've," especially since our trip on American Airlines turned into an unexpected, unannounced flight on American Eagle; apparently, American had no prop planes available for the journey. The Houstonians, all three of whom were as well-educated as they were well-dressed, wondered what she meant. The missus said, "You know, because of the Wright Amendment." The Houston Three had no idea what she meant. "What's a Wright Amendment?" asked the man called Marvin, which prompted the missus to utter, "Really?" before launching into a short civics lesson. Needless to say, they'd never heard of the thing and didn't understand what the hell she was talking about. They seemed to feel sorry for her. I think they thought she was making it up.

Guess the wife's relatives haven't seen the latest issue of BusinessWeek, which contains yet another piece on the Wright Amendment compromise. The difference between this one and most, though, underscores American's diminishing power in the region and in Washington, D.C., which can only be a good thing, far as I'm concerned. (Really? You stick us on American Eagle without telling us in advance? Why not just have someone kick me in the balls when we get to the airport? To think I talked the missus out of flying ATA. Or walking to Chicago.) Still gotta wait eight years to fly nonstop out of Love Field on Southwest, but there is this bonus, says BusinessWeek: "A July 12 study by two aviation research consultants estimated that 2 million North Texas airline passengers will save $259 million a year because of heightened competition." And I will spend those savings buying the first round on a Southwest flight to Chicago. Lovely town. Except I still do not understand how 93 degrees prompts an "excessive heat warning." Here, that's a cold front. --Robert Wilonsky

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