DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A Southwest Airlines executive apologized Thursday night to residents upset with an increase in noise from jets at Love Field. It came after what he called a “perfect storm” that changed jet traffic at the airport in April.

Southwest and airport officials blamed the problem in part on weather patterns, construction and a lapse in a software contract that helped keep track of noise data.

In a meeting with residents Thursday night, Southwest said it is re-emphasizing to pilots the rules of the voluntary noise control program at Love in an effort to stop the problem.

Noise complaints started increasing at Love after the new terminal partially opened in April, particularly from residents in Highland Park.

Vice President of airport operations for Southwest, Bob Montgomery, said construction at the terminals forced pilots to make a long taxi to get to the Denton runway on the southwest side of the airport. It’s much easier, faster, and saves fuel to use the Lemmon runway on the northeast side.

At the same time, airport officials failed to renew a contract for software that helped monitor noise data, and didn’t pick up on the new trend. It resulted in the number of flights that were non-compliant with the voluntary noise control program going from 42 in January, to a high of 562 in May.

“It certainly caught me short and we’ve been trying to scramble to figure out what to do about it,” Montgomery said.
Residents were not convinced the change was entirely coincidental, noting that the time and fuel savings from using the Lemmon runway were good for Southwest’s bottom line.

“They spend less fuel, they have a better on time rate,” said Highland Park resident Jennifer Ferguson. “It’s just easier, it’s more convenient and it’s cheaper.”

Southwest said it was in discussions with the city about redistributing gates at the new terminal to make the distance to each runway evenly split.

There was no estimate yet of how a likely increase in larger planes next year for more long-range flights would affect the split. Montgomery said pilots would likely prefer the Denton runway for landing the larger planes because of its extra length.

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