5 things to watch in airline industry in 2014

01/01/2014 11:59 PM

01/02/2014 12:00 AM

If 2013 was the year of the world’s largest airline merger, then 2014 will be the year of the Wright Amendment.

The end of flight restrictions at Dallas Love Field will be among the top stories to watch in the local airline and aviation industry in 2014. Here’s what we’ll be watching.

The Wright Amendment

For 35 years, the Wright Amendment has restricted flights from Dallas Love Field to several nearby states. But starting in October, carriers can fly anywhere in the U.S. from Love. Southwest Airlines, which dominates the 20-gate airport, will likely alter its flight schedule to include trips to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles instead of flying a dozen times a day to Houston or San Antonio. Delta Air Lines has announced plans to add four cities to its operations at Love. But it remains to be seen how the changes will affect fares on competing flights at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

American merger

The deal is finally done and now the hard work begins to bring together American Airlines and US Airways. The airlines, which completed their merger in December, are combining two operations into the world’s largest carrier. US Airways is expected to drop out of United Airlines’ Star Alliance and join American’s Oneworld group in the first quarter. Customers will also be able to earn and burn frequent-flier miles on each airline this month. Most of the major technology integration is unlikely to happen until 2015, but the airline’s new leadership will need to tackle thousands of policies and processes this year.

New leader at DFW

After 19 years of Jeff Fegan’s steady leadership, DFW Airport has a new pilot at the helm. Former Virgin Australia executive Sean Donohue took over the top spot in late October and hasn’t made any significant changes yet. But in 2014, Donohue will face renewed competition from Love Field when the Wright Amendment ends and will try to keep cost overruns in check on the airport’s $2.3 billion terminal renovation project.

Cellphones on planes

The Federal Aviation Administration appears poised to allow fliers to make cellphone calls during flights. Several carriers, including Delta and Southwest, have publicly said they won’t allow cellphone use. But if the government does allow calls, it will be interesting to see which carriers let their travelers yak all they want.

Airline profits

2012 was a good year for airlines. 2013 was even better. Could 2014 be the best ever? The International Air Transport Association said it expects global airlines to earn a net profit of $19.7 billion in 2014 on revenue of $743 billion. If that occurs, it will be the largest profit for the airline industry, the association said. Passenger demand is expanding in the 5 to 6 percent range, and passengers are paying more in ancillary fees, which help boost revenue.

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