The Wright Amendment, passed in 1979, is about to expire, and this will mean a big change for air traffic in Dallas. The Wright Amendment currently restricts flights in and out of Dallas Love Field. When passed, it was designed to protect the relatively new and struggling DFW Airport from competition. Yes, something about that just doesn’t sound right, but that was the goal.
Both cities (Dallas and Fort Worth) had agreed to build and operate the airport together, and the commercial airlines (at Dallas Love Field and Meacham Field, respectively) agreed to move over to the new facility when it opened. DFW Airport is now one of the busiest airports in the country. It reportedly ranks 4th in the country. The problem is that Southwest Airlines didn’t exist at the time of all of this and never agreed to move.
The Amendment, passed basically in response to Southwest’s push to expand and stay at Love Field, originally limited nonstop service by planes with more than 56 seats to contiguous states (i.e., Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana). To go beyond that, a traveler needed to purchase two separate tickets in each direction and had to stop over in one of the contiguous states to change planes. It doesn’t take much to see how inconvenient this is for travelers. These limits were expanded, very slightly, in 1997 and 2005 and, through a compromise in 2006, the Amendment will terminate as of October 13, 2014.
Everyone at Southwest is undoubtedly counting the minutes until October 13, 2014. They are celebrating it, for obvious reasons. After all, Southwest reportedly controls sixteen of the twenty gates at Dallas Love Field. Although Southwest will be competing directly with carriers like American at DFW Airport, they will also have an advantage of proximity for those of us in Dallas.
So who else will be at Dallas Love Field? Good question. Delta doesn’t have any gates at Dallas Love Field, although it has indicated an interest in acquiring some, and American agreed to give up its two gates to settle its litigation with the Department of Justice and to gain approval of its merger with US Airways.
In the meantime, Southwest announced on Monday that, as of October 13, it is adding nonstop flights to fifteen new cities. Service to five of them will begin on October 13, including Denver, Baltimore, Chicago, Orlando and Las Vegas. The remaining new ten routes will begin as of November 2, including New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Tampa, Phoenix, Santa Ana, Fort Lauderdale and Nashville. Meanwhile, Delta is selling tickets out of Love Field for travel dates at the end of the year. (Even though, yes, as the prior paragraph set out, they don’t actually have any gates right now.)