MIAMI — The Wright Amendment, which restricted Southwest Airlines flights out of Dallas Love Field is now history, declared Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly in festivities here today to celebrate the milestone. “It literally took an act of Congress to make the Wright Amendment go away,” he said.
Kelly, a history lover, noted that when the United States declared independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, there was a committee of five, including Thomas Jefferson, that helped pen the document. “In June 2006, a committee of five was formed to sign a historic agreement to free Love Field,” he said. Among the signatories were American Airlines, Southwest and the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth.
“So eight years after President George Bush signed the Love Field Reform Act, we are now free,” said Kelly. “Now we can talk about our future at Love Field. And that future is very bright right now because of Southwest’s low fares, outstanding people and great culture.”
The repeal is also good for the Dallas economy, said Kelly. “It’s good for jobs, for competition and for travelers who want to fly out of North Dallas,” he said. “Yesterday, we had 118 daily departures out of Love Field. Today we have 140, which is a 19 percent increase.”
Southwest added seven new destinations out of Love Field today: Denver, Chicago Midway, Baltimore, Washington Ronald Reagan, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando. And the carrier will add more service on Nov. 2 to: Phoenix; Orange County/Santa Ana and San Diego, California; Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; New York LaGuardia; Atlanta; and Nashville, Tennessee.
Kelly thanked Ron Ricks, the carrier’s senior vice president and chief legal and regulator officer, who has been working on the Wright Amendment since 1981. “We also thank [former U.S.] Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison for her hard work,” he said.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings noted that the Dallas-Fort Worth region is the fourth-largest market in the country, and the fastest growing. “In 1979, Congress passed the Wright Amendment, and Gary Kelly began his effort to repeal it 10 years ago,” he said. “Because of his vision and passion to amend the wrong of the Wright Amendment, it’s been terminated and travelers can now can fly to many more destinations across the United States.”
To prepare for the end of the Wright Amendment, the city invested half a billion dollars in upgrading Love Field, said Rawlings. “We have a new central terminal, a remodeled lobby, new concessions, a new bag claim area, new gates and new parking lots being built,” he said.
More than four million passengers departed from Love Field in 2013, said Rawlings. “The airline has created a wonderful economic impact for the region. Air traffic is expected to increase by 50 percent with non-stop and connecting flights,” he said. “That will create $1.7 billion in economic impact because of expanded flights. This is also a job creator that’s important to our citizens.”
Dallas has been Southwest’s home for 43 years, said Kelly. “We have more than 8,000 employees and we’re an important part of the community here,” he said.
Kelly said he’s been asked over and over how he feels about the events of today. “It’s been a joy to watch, but it’s almost overwhelming because we’ve been working on it for so long,” he said. “This was a crazy restriction that was harmful to Southwest and the city of Dallas. So now when it comes to competition, we say bring it on.”
Looking ahead, Kelly told Airways that he expects that Love Field will be bustling a year from today. “We’ll be working on how to continue to expand with our 20 gates to get more non-stop flights to more destinations,” he said. “We already have a facility here that has been expanded. The real question is where we’d be if the Wright Amendment were still in place: no new airport and no expansion.”
When it comes to international flights, the potential is pretty significant, said Kelly. “We have 50 destinations outside the 48 states in the Caribbean, Central and South America that we can fly with our [Boeing] 737s,” he said. “We will grow in a measured way, and we’re excited about the opportunities.”
With the Wright Amendment now being history, Kelly noted he’s already seen things that he thought would never happen. “For the first time in my life, I got a kiss from [Founder] Herb [Kelleher]. And you know Herb has kissed everyone on the planet,” he quipped. “That show how momentous this day is for Southwest.”