BWI among hubs OK'd for Love Field flights

October 18, 2006|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,Sun reporter

By tomorrow, Southwest Airlines passengers in 25 cities - including big hubs such as Baltimore - will be able to book flights to Dallas Love Field for the first time.

The airline announced its expanded Dallas schedule yesterday, with introductory fares of $99 each way, after the repeal last week of a 27-year-old federal law restricting flights out of Southwest's home airport to eight nearby states.

"Dallas is our home, our headquarters," Gary C. Kelly, Southwest's chief executive officer, said of Love Field. "But we're treating it like a new city."

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport will have nine daily flights from Dallas, mostly through Houston and St. Louis. All will require passengers to change planes.

Phoenix will get the most daily flights from Love Field, 14 daily. There will be 12 flights to Las Vegas, eight to Chicago, seven to Los Angeles, six to San Diego and five to Orlando, Fla.

All flights still must connect through a neighboring state. Nonstop flights will be permitted in eight years under an agreement among airports, airlines and the Texas congressional delegation.

Southwest planes fly these routes, but the airline was not permitted to sell the flights as single itineraries because of the law, which was designed to promote growth at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport eight miles away and maintain Love Field as a regional airport. Passengers traveling from outside the nine-state area had to buy two tickets if they wanted to land at Love Field.

Southwest has been working for almost two years to get the so-called Wright Amendment repealed. Kelly called the move one of the "most significant moments in Southwest Airlines' history and in the history of North Texas air travel."

Kelly said he expects thousands more people a day to travel from Dallas and that flights will be added according to demand.

Fall is not an ideal launch time because travel typically slows as the vacation season ends. This year, Kelly said, travel has slowed more than usual because of the ban on liquids in carryon baggage that went into effect in August as a security measure.

The airline will face competition from American Airlines, which maintains a large hub at the rival Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Airline officials have said they think passengers will pay a little more for American's direct flights, even if the airport is a bit farther from downtown than Love Field.

American and Continental Airlines offer a small number of flights from Love Field and also were subject to the Wright Amendment there.

The changes at Southwest won't mean much better connecting service for passengers to far-flung cities such as Baltimore. A flight to Los Angeles on Southwest through Dallas, for example, would mean four legs of travel.

But a BWI spokesman said the schedule will provide more choices in the long term.

"These changes will present BWI customers with better opportunities and better efficiencies to fly to Dallas Love Field," said Jonathan Dean, the spokesman. "We will likely see further changes in coming years as the Wright Amendment's restrictions are further eliminated."

BWI has eight daily nonstop flights to DFW, seven on American and one on AirTran Airways. Advance-purchase round-trip fares on American were $208 yesterday, airline Web sites showed.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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