Once unthinkable, Southwest is considering DFW flights


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Southwest Airlines planes at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)?

What would have been hard to imagine in decades past is now apparently on the table in Texas, where Southwest may begin flying from both of the major airports in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.

Southwest’s refusal to fly to DFW instead of its preferred Dallas Love Field (DAL) nearly defined the airline’s existence in its early years. It prompted the federal Wright Amendment that governed traffic at the two airports — and stirred up national news and controversy within the aviation industry.

The Wright Amendment restricted passenger flights out of Love Field to locations within Texas and to four neighboring states — Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Southwest battled American Airlines and others for the right to keep flying from Love Field, with charismatic founder Herb Kelleher leading publicity stunts to win the public — and politicians — over to its side.

The battle raged for years, with the Wright Amendment restrictions gradually being whittled down over the years. But one key restriction remained — Southwest was prohibited from flying from DFW for as long as it continued to operate at Love Field. But that restriction is set to expire in 2025.

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“Dallas Love Field has been very good to us,” Bob Jordan, Southwest CEO, said at the Skift Aviation Forum on Nov. 1. “That’s the home of Southwest Airlines. We rebuilt, working with the city and the airport, and it’s a wonderful facility. But it is constrained. It’s constrained to 20 gates.”

Southwest has 18 of the 20 gates at Dallas Love Field, according to Jordan, and the airline is also in talks with Love Field to extend its leases on the gates. Southwest hasn’t operated at DFW — a major American Airlines hub — due to the Wright Amendment, but the law’s expiring restrictions would making DFW fair game..

When Southwest was just a small carrier, it went to court in 1973 to keep its presence at Love Field as DFW was preparing to open its gates. The federal district court ruled at the time that Southwest could keep operating at Dallas Love Field. As a result, when DFW officially opened in 1974, every airline moved to the new airport, except for Southwest.

Before adding any flights to DFW, Jordan said Southwest’s biggest priority is ensuring it can properly serve the Metroplex, referring to the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, and that it can maintain its 18 gates at Dallas Love Field.

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