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February 03, 2014

Southwest says it will fly to 15 new nonstop destinations when Wright Amendment restrictions are lifted in October

Love field mapSouthwest Airlines announced it will fly to 15 new non-stop destinations from Dallas Love Field once Wright Amendment restrictions are lifted in October. The amendment, which has restricted flights to Texas and nearby states since 1979, has kept the carrier from flying to most U.S. cities with its Boeing 737s from the airport closest to downtown Dallas.

The new cities will be Baltimore/Washington, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Chicago-Midway, Atlanta, Nashville, Washington, D.C. Reagan, Ft,. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia, Phoenix, San Diego, Orange County/Santa Ana and Tampa.

Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said five of the flights would begin on Oct. 13, and 10 on Nov. 2. Kelly called it Southwest’s birthday present to the city of Dallas which celebrated its 158th birthday as an incorporated city on Sunday.

“We are very, very excited,” Kelly said at a press conference in the ticketing lobby of Love Field. “We’ll be free to serve all of the continental United States and all right here in the heart of Dallas. These new nonstops are going to bring very real competition to North Texas.”

The Wright 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.

Southwest billboards

Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings and former U.S. senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who helped pass the Wright Amendment compromise agreement through Congress in 2006, were on hand to celebrate Southwest’s announcement. Cupcakes with the new destinations on top of the frosting were passed out to passengers and employees at Love Field on Monday morning.

With the new flights, Kelly said the airline will have about 140 daily flights out of Love Field later this year. The number of daily frequencies to the new destinations will be revealed in May when the flights go on sale to the public.

The new flights at Love Field will use about 14 to 15 additional aircraft. However, Kelly said it was not planning on adding planes to its fleet for the expansion in 2014, instead it will utilize aircraft already in its network and will shift the planes from other less-profitable routes.

Kelly said the carrier will continue to fly to all of its current destinations out of Love Field. Southwest flies about 120 to 130 daily flights out of Love Field to destinations like Houston, New Orleans, Albuquerque and San Antonio. Some current cities may see a reduction in the number of daily flights when the new destinations are added later this year, he said.

With the restrictions ending in October, analysts expect Southwest to add flights to some of its busier airports, such as 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,” Southern Methodist University economist Bud Weinstein said during an interview in January. He pointed to the limit on gates at Love Field, capped at 20, and the continued ban on international flights.

In its earnings call, Southwest told investors that Wright Amendment revenue — derived from passengers buying “through tickets” to distant cities from Love by stopping in other cities — contributed $75 million in the fourth quarter and about $300 million for the full year.

Southwest billboard 36Delta 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 in October.

Delta uses gates leased from American Airlines. However, American must give up those gates as part of its antitrust settlement with the Justice Department, and it’s unclear which airline will buy them.

Southwest has also expressed interest in the American gates at Love Field. On Monday, Kelly said the process to auction off those gates has not yet begun.

-Andrea Ahles


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