Congress Ends Domestic Flight Restrictions at Dallas Love Field

Washington, DC -- Congress on Friday approved legislation that eliminates restrictions on long-haul domestic flights at Dallas Love Field, the home airport of Southwest Airlines.

The new legislation will increase competition in northern Texas, thus putting downward pressure on air fares, according to Southwest, the nation's leading low-fare airline. President George Bush is widely expected to sign the bill.

The legislation reflects an agreement in June between Southwest, American Airlines, and the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth to support changes to the federal Wright Amendment, which had restricted flights at Love Field to a nine-state region in the South and Southwest. The Wright Amendment benefited carriers at nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where American is the dominant carrier.

The agreement lifts restrictions on non-stop domestic service from Love Field--but after eight years, a concession to American Airlines.

However, Southwest can issue so-called through tickets when the new law is enacted. With a through ticket, a passenger who wants to fly beyond the nine-state region can buy a single ticket for flights that connect within the region. Now, Southwest passengers must buy two tickets for long-range trips in and out of Love Field and board twice, even if the connecting flight is on the same airplane.

In another concession to American Airlines, the agreement downsizes Love Field to 20 gates from the current 32 gates, thereby restricting Southwest's growth at its home airport.

Southwest, which has fought to stay at Love Field since the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport opened, in 1974, will receive 16 of the 20 remaining gates. At present, the airline operates out of 14 gates, according to a Southwest spokeswoman.