Southwest and American Posturing in Dallas

Arguments over the Wright and Shelby Amendments restricting flights out of Dallas-Love Field are reaching absurd proportions.

For years Southwest, which is based at Love Field, has maintained official neutrality to the federal rules which limit flying out of the airport to contiguous states. It took years of litigation for Southwest to even be able to use the airport, which had otherwise been abandoned for the Dallas-Fort Worth facility.

I’ve assumed that Southwest’s newfound desire to overturn these restrictions is mostly a matter of posturing. I don’t think Southwest really wants substantial new flying out of Dallas.

There’s not much room for expansion out of Love Field. They’re pretty close to maxed out in their existing terminal space. New flights to further away destinations could certainly displace existing flights, and those might well be more profitable than certain existing services. But I have a hard time imagining that greater focus on Dallas is the next best expansion opportunity for Southwest.

In order to expand Love Field they’ll have a whole separate battle with the city over space, possibly years in the making, and they’ll have to bear 100% of the cost.

If they actually wanted more Dallas flying, it seems to me that they would have placed a higher priority on picking up the Delta gates at DFW with free rent and $22 million in incentives. The fact that they didn’t suggests to me that they don’t view Dallas expansion as a high priority and are simply posturing about expansion at Love Field hoping to scare away expansion by potential low cost competitors who might be interested in those DFW gates.

That said, Southwest expansion beyond the limits of the Wright and Shelby amendments scares the bejeesus out of American which is based at DFW.

American predicts doom and the end of the world in the event these laws are repealed, and suggests that they would have to build a hub at Love Field in order to fight back “because that’s where the customers are going to want to go.” But that seems to me to be an argument for repealing the laws — customers would benefit from added convenience — rather than an argument against repeal!

And American is bluffing in any case. They have three gates at Love that are going unused. They’ve been completely chased out of the airport due to low fares and an inability to fill their planes.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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