Jul 29, 2022 - Business

Southwest can expand to DFW Airport, but will it?

Will Southwest expand northwest in North Texas? Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Southwest Airlines will be allowed to expand service to DFW Airport starting in 2025, but airline officials aren't sure they'll make the move.

Flashback: The Love Field vs. DFW Airport debate has loomed for decades.

  • Love Field was a World War I training base for the U.S. Army before the city of Dallas bought it in 1927 for civilian use.
  • When the time came to build an international airport for D-FW, the regional airports had to agree to yield to the bigger airport. Southwest fought for Love Field to stay in use.
  • The 1979 Wright Amendment, a federal law, kept Love Field alive but with many limitations so DFW could remain the go-to airport for most flights.

Why it matters: Love Field isn't big enough to support Southwest's growing demand in North Texas.

  • A lingering provision of the Wright Amendment is set to expire in 2025, opening the path for expansion to DFW Airport — if Southwest wants it.
  • A recent Dallas Morning News story on the topic has fueled questions about the Dallas-based airline's plans.

What they're saying: At a quarterly call with shareholders and media yesterday, Southwest leaders emphasized they are "very happy" at Love Field, their home, but acknowledged the airport's constraints relative to increasing demand for flights.

  • "We want to continue to serve the area, and at some point that becomes difficult given the capacity at Love Field," CEO Bob Jordan said. "We'll look to add capacity generally to the extent that we can, and there are a lot of potential ways to do that. Obviously, DFW could be a way to do that — we don't have anything in process."

Between the lines: Southwest already flies to multiple airports in other metro areas like Chicago, Houston and the Bay Area — but Dallas' complicated airport history hasn't made it possible here yet.

Of note: Southwest made a record $6.7 billion in revenue in the second quarter of 2022 but is treading cautiously around rising inflation and delays in receiving new aircraft from Boeing.

  • The airline also announced yesterday that its travel credits for canceled itineraries will no longer have expiration dates.

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