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American joins Love Field appeal

American Airlines Inc. said Tuesday that it has joined an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to overturn an appeals-court ruling that allowed some long-haul flights at Love Field airport.

The Fort Worth-based carrier disclosed its participation one day after launching long-haul service at the Dallas airport to compete with its start-up rival, Legend Airlines Inc.

American, the world's second-largest airline, filed a petition at the U.S. Supreme Court late Monday.

Its petition joins those filed by the city of Fort Worth and the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Board.

The Supreme Court will decide over the next few months whether to hear this case.

Dallas-based Legend started offering all-first-class flights to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Washington from Love Field in early April.

Its sights were set on business travelers, American's most profitable customers.

American responded by launching service to Los Angeles and Chicago from Love Field.

"All we want to do is compete," Donald J. Carty, American's chairman and chief executive, said in mid-February.

"Our resistance to this change in Love Field hasn't been good for American's image.

"This is a company that cut its teeth in post-deregulation on competition. We want to put this behind us."

American and Fort Worth spent nearly three years waging a legal battle against Legend.

Three months ago, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld federal laws that permit airlines to fly from Love Field to cities outside Texas and four adjoining states, the boundaries observed by carriers at the Dallas airport since 1974. The laws' only caveat: The planes must carry no more than 56 passengers.

In its petition, American states that the Supreme Court needs to hear its appeal to clarify whether federal law, in this case the Airline Deregulation Act, limits the power of local governments to decide how local airports are used.

American and Fort Worth have said long-haul flights at Love Field would violate bond agreements that financed construction of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The 5th Circuit ruling runs contrary to previous court decisions involving airports in Denver and New York, the airline states.

If the ruling stands, American asserts, it will hurt the ability of airports to sell bonds in the future.

"If use restrictions cannot be enforced, local authorities will have no way to ensure the investment community that a planned major airport will be able to generate sufficient revenue to support the bonds needed to construct and maintain it," American wrote in its petition.

T. Allan McArtor, Legend's chief executive and president, said American has tried this argument before without success.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which supported Legend's decision to fly out of Love Field, said it had no immediate response to the appeal. It is expected to file comments later this month.
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