DOT Issues Declaratory Order Authorizing
Air Service at Dallas Love Field

In an attempt to resolve long-standing issues in dispute over passenger air service at Dallas Love Field, DOT has issued a declaratory order(1) addressing continuing airline service at Love Field, and rejecting sought service restrictions.

The ongoing dispute over airline operations at Love Field grew out of a 30 year old agreement between the Cities of Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas which sought to eliminate airline operations at the separate Dallas and Fort Worth Airports(2) and to consolidate operations at the newly constructed Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport ("DFW"). The direct parties involved in the ongoing litigation over Love Field service include Fort Worth and Dallas, airline users and potential users at Love Field and DFW, and the DFW Board. The core issues in dispute concern Dallas' obligations under the 1968 Bond Ordinance between Dallas and Fort Worth to restrict airline operations at Love Field in the face of federal legislation providing for limited interstate operations.

After DFW was opened for business, Dallas kept Love Field open for certain restricted uses. However, attempts to further restrict airline service at the airport were partially blocked as the result of litigation with carriers over the issue.(3) Additionally, in 1980 Congress enacted the Wright Amendment, which allowed a limited amount of interstate airline service at Love Field.(4) Among other things, the Wright Amendment authorized unrestricted air service at the airport for aircraft seating no more than 56 passengers, and allowed airlines to operate unrestricted Love Field flights to or from points in Texas, and the neighboring states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.(5) After years of operations and several disputes involving Love Field Operations, Congress enacted the Shelby Amendment,(6) opening up Love Field for additional airline service by allowing unrestricted Love Field flights to or from three additional states -- Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama, and clarifying that the 56 passenger exemption for air service from the airport applied not only to aircraft originally designed to hold no more than 56 seats, but also to reconfigured aircraft with no more than 56 seats.

At the request of several parties to state litigation over Love Field service, DOT decided to take action to resolve the federal law issues involved in the disputes. In their pleadings filed with DOT, Fort Worth, American Airlines (a principal user of DFW), and the DFW Board argued that the federal law (i.e., the Wright and Shelby Amendments) impacting Love Field service does not preempt Dallas' ability to limit the scope of Love Field service. They asserted that the amendments were intended only to limit DOT's authority to authorize service at Love Field, and not the cities' authority to restrict the service authorized by the amendments. They also argued that the exception for aircraft with passenger capacity of 56 seats does not apply to longhaul interstate airline service at Love Field. Arguing in opposition to Fort Worth, Dallas and other supporting parties contended that Dallas does not have the authority to bar airlines from operating at Love Field pursuant to the Wright and Shelby Amendments because its authority to restrict the airline service is preempted by federal law.

The core of DOT's decision involved an interpretation of 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(7) the applicable federal statute governing the preemption of state and local government regulation of airline routes, fares, and services. In particular, the dispute involved an interpretation of the statutory exception to the above preemption statute authorizing local governments that own airports to exercise certain proprietary powers.(8)

DOT clarified that existing precedent authorizes restrictions by airport authorities over operations to the extent that such restrictions are "reasonable, nonarbitrary, and non-discriminatory" and are designed to accomplish a "legitimate airport goal."(9) DOT held that the restrictions on Love Field operations sought by Fort Worth -- to block the interstate service authorized by the Wright and Shelby Amendments -- "are equivalent to route regulation." Such local route regulation, said DOT, is unlawful.(10) Additionally, DOT determined that Fort Worth's attempts to restrict service at Love Field in order to reduce competition for DFW was not a legitimate reason justifying the imposition of the sought service restrictions.(11)

In addition to being prohibited by 49 U.S.C. § 41713, held DOT, the Wright and Shelby Amendments themselves preempted the cities' ability to restrict Love Field service. According to DOT, the restrictions on service sought by Fort Worth would "frustrate Congress' policies" of allowing the interstate service at Love Field as authorized by the amendments.(12)

Finally, DOT concluded that (1) the Wright and Shelby Amendments authorize unlimited service with any aircraft with a capacity of no more than 56 passengers,(13) and (2) use agreements between DFW and airlines barring airlines from using any other airport in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area are unlawful restraint on interstate commerce.(14)


NHTSA Motor Vehicle Recall Overturned on Grounds that
Agency Failed to Provide Notice of Noncompliance

The District of Columbia Circuit has reversed a decision ordering the recall of 91,000 Chrysler cars by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") for agency failure to provide notice of what is required under its safety standards. In United States v. Chrysler Corporation,(15) Chrysler appealed a federal district court decision granting NHTSA's motor vehicle recall request for failing to comply with federal safety standards governing seat belts.(16) The controversy at issue involved the use and placement of a "pelvic body block," an L-shaped metal block representing a human pelvis, used to test seat belt assembly anchorages. Assembly anchorages are placed on seat belts to ensure that the seat belts remain attached in the event of a crash.

The central issue in the case was whether a recall can be ordered without regard to whether the automobile manufacturer has reasonable notice of the standard giving rise to the alleged noncompliance.(17) The court first reviewed the governing legal principles, determining that under the "fair notice" doctrine, traditional notions of due process require an agency to provide "fair notice" prior to depriving a private party of property. On this basis, the court held that the NHTSA recall order, entailing the expenditure of significant amounts of money by the manufacturer, deprived Chrysler of property and triggered the duty to prove notice.(18)

Additionally, the court clarified that the law governing motor vehicle recalls requires NHTSA to demonstrate that a reasonable person, exercising reasonable care, would have known that a vehicle did not comply with the applicable standards.(19) The law also provides that a manufacturer certifying that a vehicle complies with all applicable safety standards cannot be held accountable for having manufactured a noncomplying vehicle if it had no reason to know that the vehicle did not comply with the standards.(20) In the case of the Chrysler recall, said the Court, the company had no reason to believe that the vehicles were not in conformance with agency standards.

Finally, the court disagreed with the Government's claim that Chrysler should have known, or have been able to discern, the correct pelvic body block placement for testing purposes. The court found that NHTSA had failed to reference any such appropriate standard in its rules. The court concluded, "Chrysler might have satisfied NHTSA with the exercise of extraordinary intuition or with the aid of a psychic, but these possibilities are more than the law requires."(21)

Hot DOT Spots

  • At the close of 1998, DOT issued the third volume draft of its four volume study on the impacts of truck size and weight on federal highways. The report, entitled the "Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study," examines the economic and safety costs of allowing longer and heavier trucks on the nation's roads. The study was first proposed in 1994 by Secretary Slater in his position as Federal Highway Administrator. Along with its conclusions on the heightened safety impacts of allowing longer-combination vehicles on the roads, the study concludes that their use would cause a reduction in railroad profit margins as a result of predicted truck displacement of rail freight service. DOT is seeking public comment on its draft study through the end of February.

  • Federal Highway Administrator Kenneth R. Wykle has announced that two neutral "convenors" have been hired by the agency to examine whether new hours-of-service rules for commercial vehicle drivers can be accomplished through a negotiated rulemaking among affected parties. Under the negotiated Rulemaking Act of 1996, neutral convenors may be assigned to assist agencies in determining whether it is feasible to move forward with a negotiated rulemaking. A negotiated rulemaking involves an agency inviting interested parties to develop a consensus proposed draft rule to be published by the agency for public comment. FHWA has announced that the convenors that it has hired will interview drivers, motor carriers, safety groups, and enforcement officials. After the interview process is completed the convenors will submit a report of findings and recommendations to FHWA as to whether a "negotiating committee" can be assembled that fairly represents all affected interests and is willing to negotiate in good faith the agency's hours-of-service rules.

  • DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics ("BTS"), together with the Bureau of the Census, has released preliminary results of its 1997 Commodity Flow Survey. The survey compiles data on various transportation modes used by American businesses to move commodities. It measures the value, weight, types of commodities shipped, and the point of origin and destination. The preliminary report shows that between 1993 and 1997, freight shipments in the United States included in the study increased by approximately 30 percent in value, 19 percent in tonnage, and 16 percent in ton-miles. A more comprehensive report is due out by the time of this publication.

  • George Warrington has been appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Amtrak. Formerly the President of Amtrak's Northeast corridor operations, Warrington had been serving as Acting President of Amtrak since December 1997. Warrington has expressed as his chief objectives the self-sufficiency of the railroad by the end of fiscal year 2002 and the launching of high-speed rail between Boston, New York, and Washington in 1999. Amtrak employs more than 24,000 people and serves more than 500 communities in 45 states.


1. Docket OST-98-4363, Love Field Service Interpretation Proceeding (Decision served Dec. 23, 1998) (Order 98-12-27). An electronic version of the decision can be found on the World Wide Web at

2. Love Field is the Dallas Airport. The Greater Southwest International Airport was Fort Worth's airport, which was demolished as a result of the construction of DFW.

3. Among the various disputes, Southwest Airlines prevailed in litigation over its use of Love Field for intrastate passenger air service. See City of Dallas, Tex v. Southwest Airlines, 371 F.Supp. 1015 (N.D. Tex. 1973), aff'd on different grounds, 494 F.2d 773 (5th Cir. 1974).

4. International Air Transportation Competition Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-192, § 29, 94 Stat. 35, 48-49 (1980). The Amendment was named after former Congressman Jim Wright (D-TX), of Fort Worth.

5. The Wright Amendment prohibited the sale of through transportation beyond the Love Field service area for aircraft not meeting the 56 passenger exemption, requiring travelers to purchase separate tickets for each leg of air travel ending at points outside the airport's service area.

6. Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1998, Pub. L. No. 105-66, § 337, 111 Stat. 1425, 1447 (1997). The Amendment was named after its sponsor, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL).

7. This provision was enacted as part of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-504, § 4, 92 Stat. 1705 (1978).

8. Id. at § 41713(b)(3).

9. DOT Order No. 98-12-27, at sheets 30-34.

10. Id. at sheets 34-35.

11. Even if Dallas could restrict Love Field service to protect DFW from competition, said the court, the specific service and route restrictions on Love Field sought by Fort Worth were too expansive, and did not comport with case law authorizing airport owners to adopt rules to mitigate congestion and environmental problems, or to preserve the viability of the airport. Id. at 35-39. As for the impact of the Wright and Shelby Amendments on the viability of DFW, said DOT, Fort Worth had not cited evidence showing that the role of DFW as the Dallas-Fort Worth area's dominant airport, was threatened by the Amendments. Id. at 39-41.

12. Id. at 45-50.

13. Id. at 50-54. This included service by retrofitted jet aircraft with gross weight of 300,000 pounds or less (but not service by widebody aircraft).

14. Id. at 54-59. DOT also clarified that the exemption authorizing aircraft with a passenger capacity of 56 passengers or less would allow Continental Express to operate through service between Love Field and points outside the Love Field service area, when the service involved an intrastate flight service leg, accompanied by an interstate movement to points beyond the immediate Love Field service area. Id. at 59-61.

15. 158 F.3d 1350 (D.C. Cir. 1998).

16. The cars in question were Model Year 1995 Chrysler Cirrus and Dodge Stratus cars. NHTSA specifically alleged that the cars were not in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 210 regulating seat belt assembly. See 49 C.F.R. § 571.210.

17. Under governing law, NHTSA may seek recall of motor vehicles for safety defects, or for failure to comply with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard (a noncompliance violation). See 49 U.S.C. § 30118(b). The instant case involved a noncompliance violation.

18. Chrysler Corp., 158 F.3d at 1354-55.

19. See National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. §§ 30112(b)(2)(A).

20. Id. at § 30115.

21. Chrysler Corp., 158 F.3d at 1357.

  back to top
  Please click here for the Publications and Presentations Archive