Air Transport World

Love's luster found: Southwest Airlines has big plans for its hometown airport.(Airports)(Dallas Love Field)

TIME'S BEEN KIND TO NEITHER THE MAP that graces the floor of Dallas Love Field's 53-year-old terminal nor the metallic visage of a Texas Ranger that guards it. When Dallas/Fort Worth International opened in January 1974, airport officials covered the map with a skating rink and shuffled the Ranger statue to one side. As security tightened post-9/11, they built a TSA checkpoint atop the map. Kids who once traced shiny air routes emanating from Love to New York, Mexico City and Los Angeles were all grown up by then. They had to settle for nonstops to Lubbock.

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The reason, of course, was the 1979 Wright Amendment, that restrictive piece of legislation ostensibly designed to protect DFW from the predations of Love, which was supposed to close to commercial flights after DFW opened (Southwest Airlines, which has its headquarters in sight of the runways, prevailed in the legal battle to keep DAL open).

Under the Wright Amendment, aircraft with more than 56 seats were prohibited from flying beyond Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma or New Mexico. Not only could they not fly beyond those five states nonstop, carriers couldn't sell through tickets beyond Texas or the four contiguous states. If you were flying from, say, DAL to Los Angeles, you'd have to buy a ticket from Dallas to Albuquerque and then a separate ticket from ABQ to LAX. Passengers choosing to do this two-step also had to claim their checked luggage and re-check it for the second ticket.

All that changed a few years back when Southwest lobbied lawmakers to ease the restrictions in the face of the changed market conditions of the post-9/11 world that saw short-haul markets swoon (ATW, 4/05, p. 26). It mostly succeeded: Under an October 2006 agreement to phase out the rule over eight years, carriers now can provide nonstop service via full-size aircraft from DAL to anyplace in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas or Missouri. Any airline also can provide same-plane or connecting service beyond those states--provided the flight from DAL first stops in one of the nine states. …

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