A helpful TPG reader alerted me to interesting news this week that the expiration of the Wright Amendment is just a year away, which is causing great celebration for both Southwest staff and customers as it will mean the possibility of a huge increase in flight slots from the Dallas, TX, area.
On October 13, 2014, when the Wright Amendment ends, Southwest will gain the opportunity to provide new, nonstop service to an additional 41 states, plus the District of Columbia from Dallas Love Field.
The impending date will be forefront on the minds of Southwest employees for the next year, thanks a countdown clock that shows the days, hours and minutes to the expiration of a 1980 law that is displayed in the main lobby at Southwest’s headquarters at 2702 Love Field Drive as of Monday.
For those not familiar with the ruling, the Aviation Blog powered by the Dallas Morning News explained the situation in detail and revealed how it will affect Southwest frequent flyers.
Described as having “put handcuffs on Southwest out of Dallas,” the Wright Amendment has restricted Southwest and other carriers from flying to most of the United States out of the Dallas airport since February 1980. The law was enacted by President Jimmy Carter and stated that passenger airlines could not fly airplanes of more than 56 seats out of Love Field beyond a certain point to protect Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport from unlimited competition from Love Field.
The city of Dallas and all the airlines serving Love Field had agreed to move to the new airport when it opened. But Southwest came into existence in 1971, after that agreement, and never signed the deal, according to the Dallas Morning News report.
When enacted, the amendment – named after then U.S. Rep. Jim Wright, D-Fort Worth – said airlines with airplanes of over 56 seats could fly only to airports in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. Later, the states of Kansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Missouri were added.
After shackling the growth of Southwest in north Texas ever since, the airline conducted an aggressive lobbying and grassroots campaign against it and finally on October 13, 2006, the cities, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Southwest and American Airlines agreed to a compromise that would open up Love Field to flights anywhere in the United States within eight years.
Included in the agreement was also a $519 million rebuilding project adding a 20-gate terminal (16 of which are for Southwest), reconstruction the entire airport, and a prohibition of any international flights originating there. In the new design, the terminal will decrease in size approximately 25% and unused and outdated space will be replaced with modern and more efficient facilities. The three original concourses will be demolished and consolidated into one convenient, centrally located concourse for all airlines. For full details on the program, which is called the Love Field Modernization Program (LFMP), including an online virtual tour, click here.
So far, 12 of the 20 gates have been completed and the rest are expected to be done in time for the October 13, 2014 deadline – and the big Southwest expansion. A sign posted by Southwest shared the good news, stating: “This countdown clock is dedicated to all Southwest Warriors who fought tirelessly to Set Love Free. Nonstop Love is coming; join us as we countdown to the departure of the Wright Amendment!”
Meanwhile, billboards are popping up around Dallas announcing the budget airline’s expansion across the country. “52 weeks until goodbye Wright Amendment. Hello America,” proclaims one of them.
While the airline hasn’t revealed what the new routes will be, there is popular speculation that Southwest will offer nonstop flights to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Orlando from Love Field.
This is the second bit of interesting news out of Dallas in the last few days. The first was the introduction of new flights by American out of DFW to Shanghai and Hong Kong in the summer of 2014, and this Southwest news means the area’s skies will be busier than ever thanks to more flights. I think this is a boon mostly for Dallas-based flyers looking for more choices and competition on domestic routes out of Dallas, but I don’t think it will affect in-transit passengers much since DFW will remain the dominant hub here and most connections will go through there. Still, here’s to hoping it’ll bring airfares into and through Dallas down a little as Southwest introduces more regional flights.
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