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Boost in business travel has caveat

Spending on business travel is expected to surge in 2014, a sign of continuing confidence in the U.S. economy. But the rosy business outlook could be marred by further feuding in Washington that leads to another government shutdown.

The message of caution came from a survey released last week by the Global Business Travel Association, the trade group in Virginia for corporate travel managers.

Based on business indicators, the group predicted $288.8 billion in spending in the U.S., which would be a 7.2 percent jump over 2013. It represents 459 million trips for the year, which would be a 1.6 percent increase from 2013.

The study results were released a few days before Congress and the White House reached an agreement to settle a 16-day partial shutdown. But the budget deal is temporary, raising the chance of another deadlock in January or February that the business travel group fears could slow the nation’s economic momentum.

Law’s end likely to set off airfare war

An airline battle is about to heat up in Texas as a result of a little-known law set to expire next year. The good news is that airline passengers should claim the spoils in the form of lower fares.

The so-called Wright Amendment, championed by then-U.S. Rep. Jim Wright, D-Texas, in 1979, was intended to restrict airline traffic out of Dallas Love Field and direct more growth toward the then-fledgling Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

The amendment has had direct consequences for Southwest, which is headquartered at Love Field and operates one of its biggest hubs at the airport.

Over the years, many of the Wright Amendment’s restrictions have phased out. The last limit, which expires Oct. 13, prohibits nonstop flights from Love Field to 41 states, plus the District of Columbia. Once that expires, Southwest is expected to add many new nonstops from Love Field, putting the low-cost airline in direct competition with American Airlines, based at nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

"Where Southwest decides to take on American Airlines, we are likely to see spirited competition and cheaper prices for both leisure and business travelers," said Rick Seaney of the website Farecompare.

Southwest can’t wait. In the lobby of its Love Field headquarters, the airline has installed a countdown clock that will reach zero Oct. 13. The slogan "Nonstop Love" is emblazoned on the clock.

Hugo Martin / Los Angeles Times

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