If Southwest is generally recognised as the original (and consistently most profitable) low-cost airline, then its home base of Dallas Love Field (DAL) can probably be considered the birthplace of the low-cost airline industry as we know it. While the airline still has its corporate headquarters at the airport as an operating base it ranks only seventh these days in the Southwest network. With 137 daily departures to 15 cities it lags way behind the airline’s biggest base at Las Vegas with 241 departures to 53 cities (Source: Southwest Airlines, November 2007).
Almost but not quite a monopoly at DAL
The story of Love Field during the last 35 years is long and complex. Basically when the enormous Dallas/Fort Worth airport was built in the early 70s it was expected that everyone would transfer there from Love Field. Southwest as a small new airline that had only begun intrastate operations in 1971 had never agreed to this and defended its right to stay at Love Field.
Having initially won its case things got complicated when the airline planned to start interstate operations in 1978 after US authorities deregulated the market. Although permission was granted Senator Jim Wright, a congressman from Fort Worth and majority leader of the US House of Representatives, was against the idea for obvious reasons and managed, in one day, to get the House to ban all interstate air services to and from Love Field. Southwest fought back and eventually, in 1979, the Wright Amendment was agreed. This allowed Southwest to operate non-stop flights to the four neighbouring states of Texas (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico).
In 1997 Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas were added to the list of allowable destinations and Missouri was added in 2005. In 2006 a new plan was agreed regarding the future use of Love Field which should result in its repeal in 2014. (Details of this can be found on the airport’s website.) Suffice to say that over the years Southwest has had a virtual monopoly at the airport with traffic volumes in the last decade averaging around six and a half million passengers.
In the last two years Southwest’s traffic at DAL has grown by 31%.
Serving 15 destinations
The destinations and weekly frequencies operated by Southwest this winter at DAL are summarised below:
|State||Airport (weekly departures)|
|Arkansas||Little Rock (45)|
|Oklahoma||Oklahoma City (31), Tulsa (44)|
|Louisiana||New Orleans (39)|
|Missouri||Kansas City (39), St Louis (51)|
|New Mexico||Albuquerque (57)|
|Texas||Amarillo (51), Austin (82), El Paso (39), Houston Hobby (185), Lubbock (52), Midland/Odessa (38), San Antonio (92)|
|Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 11 February 2008|
Of the 15 destinations seven are in Texas and these routes account for 63% of flights from Love Field. Competition is currently provided by American Airlines (to Austin and Kansas) and by Continental (to Houston Intercontinental) using small regional jets.
For details of Southwest’s average fares from DAL check out this week’s farewatch.