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January 31, 2014

Southwest to announce post-Wright Amendment flights on Monday

Will New York make the cut? Or maybe Las Vegas?

On Monday, Southwest Airlines will announce where it will fly to out of Dallas Love Field once the Wright Amendment restrictions are lifted in October. The amendment, which has been in place since 1979, has kept the carrier from flying to most U.S. cities with its Boeing 737 airplanes from the airport closest to downtown Dallas.

“We are very excited about it...I think it is a huge opportunity,” Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly told investors on its fourth quarter earnings call last week. “I can guarantee we are going to add new itineraries and new flights once the repeal is in effect on October 13.”

An event has been scheduled for Monday morning at Love Field with Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings and former U.S. senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Currently, Southwest flies about 120 to 130 daily flights out of Love Field to destinations like Houston, New Orleans, Albuquerque and San Antonio. With the geographic restrictions lifting in October, industry analysts expect Southwest will add flights to some of its busier airports like Las Vegas, Chicago Midway and Baltimore.

“Southwest will start flying nonstop to Chicago and Baltimore but I don’t think there is going to be any dramatic expansion,” said Southern Methodist University economist Bud Weinstein in an interview in January. He pointed to the limited number of gates at Love Field which is capped at 20 and the fact that international flights are still prohibited out of the airport.

On its fourth quarter earnings conference call last week, Southwest told investors that Wright Amendment revenues - which refers to passengers buying through tickets to distant cities from Love - contributed $75 million to its revenues in the fourth quarter and about $300 million for the full year.

Delta Air Lines announced last year that it plans to add 18 daily nonstop flights from Love Field to New York LaGuardia, Los Angeles, Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul this coming October. Delta currently uses gates that it leases from American Airlines. However, American is required to give up those gates as part of its antitrust settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and it is unclear which airline will be able to buy the gates.

-Andrea Ahles

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