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Southwest’s New Routes Offer Challenge to Delta and American Air

Feb 03, 2014 10:30 am

Skift Take

It’s a funny situation where Southwest is the incumbent at the airport and Delta is the little guy fighting for gates. Do expect the Love Field changes to have a small ripple effect on the majors’ operations.

— Jason Clampet

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Southwest

The new map of nonstop routes out of Dallas' Love Field. Southwest


Southwest Airlines plans to start nonstop flights between Dallas and New York and 14 other cities this fall, when federal limits on the airline’s home airport end.

The new service will put Southwest — once a scrappy underdog — in head-to-head competition with American and maybe Delta.

Southwest announced Monday that it will fly from Love Field to five cities on Oct. 13 and 10 more 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.

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 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 wants to buy them from American, but so does Southwest, and other airlines could enter the bidding.

When Southwest CEO Gary Kelly was asked recently about competing with Delta at Love Field, he replied, “It remains to be seen who will get those two gates.”

The U.S. Justice Department has said that the gates American is giving up shouldn’t go to so-called legacy carriers — a short list that includes Delta and United. In Delta’s favor, however, is the fact that Southwest already controls 16 of the 20 gates at Love Field.

Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter said the airline planned to “provide Dallas travelers with more choices and competition at Love Field.”

On Oct. 13, Southwest will start flying from Dallas to Chicago; Baltimore; Denver; Las Vegas; and Orlando, Fla.

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