DALLAS — Southwest Airlines announced on Monday that it will start nonstop flights this fall from Dallas to 15 cities including Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles, once federal limits on the airline’s home airport end.
McCarran International Airport will be in the first batch of five cities with the new service to Southwest’s headquarters airport at Love Field, in the heart of Dallas, starting on Oct. 13. This will put it head-to-head competition with American and Spirit, although they both fly to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, about 15 miles to the west.
According to January schedules, American dominates the route with 79 flights a week, with Spirit adding two a day.
Flights from Love Field to the other 10 cities will commence on Nov. 2.
Those routes are currently off-limits to Southwest’s Boeing 737 jets because of a 1980 law designed to protect nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Under the Wright Amendment, as the law was called, planes bigger than 56 seats could only fly from Love Field to other cities in Texas and a few nearby states. As a result, flying to Dallas now entails either a stop or changing planes in cities such as Albuquerque, El Paso, San Antonio or Houston.
Southwest has not yet released its schedule. The number of daily flights to Dallas or whether service to the intermediate cities will be curtailed or dropped is still not known.
Southwest expects to add nearly 20 flights a day, to 146 daily departures in November, from Love Field, the airline’s eighth-busiest airport.
“It will mean the opportunity to grow and add airplanes and add jobs,” CEO Gary Kelly said. He said the additional flying wouldn’t affect earnings through 2015.
With the new long-haul routes, Southwest will compete against similar service from American Airlines Group Inc. at nearby DFW Airport.
Southwest’s toughest competition, however, might come from Delta Air Lines Inc., which is already selling tickets for flights in late 2014 from Love Field to New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Detroit.
There’s just one hitch: Delta doesn’t know if it will have any gates at Love Field.
American has two gates but agreed to give them up to settle a government lawsuit against its merger with US Airways. Delta, which is leasing the gates, wants to buy them from American, but so does Southwest, and other airlines could enter the bidding. The U.S. Justice Department has said that the gates shouldn’t go to so-called legacy carriers such as Delta and United, but Delta points out that Southwest already controls 16 of the 20 gates at Love Field.
On Oct. 13, Southwest will start flying from Dallas to Chicago; Baltimore; Denver; Las Vegas; and Orlando, Fla. On Nov. 2, it will add New York’s LaGuardia Airport; Washington’s Reagan National Airport; Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Ana, Calif.; Atlanta; Nashville; Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Fla.; and Phoenix.
The fight over Love Field is a big part of the history of Southwest Airlines, which began as a Texas-only carrier. Herb Kelleher, the airline’s co-founder and a lawyer who personally fought some of the legal battles, attended Monday’s announcement at the airport.
“It just proves that being patient pays off,” he said. “Only had to wait for 40 years.”