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Gravitational Pull – Southwest Expands Love

02/05/2014

Some things exert a gravitational pull all out of proportion to their size. Consider Dallas Love Field, home base for Southwest Airlines. According to Airports Council International – North America’s latest figures DAL was the 50th busiest commercial airfield in North America, handling 8,173,927 flyers in 2012. It may be small, but it’s also potentially potent.

That potential power will be tested this coming fall as, at long last, Love spreads its wings far wider. Heretofore it’s been constrained by a singularly anachronistic piece of legislation called the Wright Amendment. The law was designed to give Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport breathing room in the wake of the early ‘seventies switch of most air service from Love Field to Dallas/Fort Worth International.

Now, the last vestiges of the law are about to go wither away. Wright, and its subsequent revisions, limited full-size jet service from Dallas Love to nine states, including Texas.

Soon, large jets can leave nonstop from Love to 48 states (Texas included). Hawaii and Alaska are excluded.

Come this fall, Southwest is re-working its DAL schedule. You’ll be able to cross more state borders legally from Love aboard WN’s “Canyon Blue” Boeings. The operant word here is “nonstop.” The current agreement mandates en-route stops on many plum routes.

As of October 13 there will be nonstop service to Baltimore/ Washington, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando and Chicago Midway. On board November 2 are new nonstops out of Dallas to Atlanta, Nashville, Reagan Washington National, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles International, New York LaGuardia, Phoenix, San Diego, Orange County and Tampa.

It’s Washington Reagan, LaGuardia and Los Angeles that matter most, prime business destinations frequented by flyers who tend to cluster in upscale north Dallas. Often, they live closer to Love than DFW.

The issue is, what sort of migration from American Airlines-dominated DFW to Love will the death of the Wright Amendment bequeath?

The man who runs DFW does not appear worried. According to the Dallas Business Journal DFW CEO Sean Donohue told a Dallas Chamber of Commerce breakfast he believes “American and Southwest [are] going to compete like hell,” something they’ve been doing “for decades all over the country.” He’s on record as saying the withering of Wright is “good news for the consumer of this region.”

It will be instructive to see just how low long-range, as opposed to mere intro, rates will be from Love to the litany of new airports Southwest is getting set to serve. Let’s look at the skyscape in mid-2015 to see just how much the consumer really benefits. That’s the acid test.

For all the easing of shackles, Love Field is still saddled with restrictions. The number of gates at the airport are limited, and capped. International full-size commercial jet service from the airport will still be verboten. Meanwhile, downstate Houston Hobby is erecting a five-gate international terminal Southwest plans to use to fly to the Caribbean, Central and South America by 2016.

Unlike Love, Hobby is unfettered by Wright’s lasting legacy.

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