AA and Southwest 'Love'-ing Each Other

Big news today is that Southwest is free to go out of Dallas' Love Field, Southwest's headquarters - but only to Kansas City (MO) and St. Louis. President Bush signed legislation that allowed this to happen. The new service is going to begin December 13 with four non-stop flights to each city. The one-way fare from Dallas to either St. Louis or Kansas City will be $79 with a 14-day advance purchase, while the unrestricted fare is $129 each way, Southwest said.

The whole controversy involves the Wright Amendment, a 1979 federal law, along with the Shelby Amendment, which state that no large jet air service is allowed from Love Field to any point beyond Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Here's a short overview from Southwest's campaign website to open up Love Field:
In 1979, Congress passed the federal law commonly referred to as the " Wright Amendment ", which restricts travel into and out of Dallas Love Field for commercial flights with more than 56 seats. This federal law makes it illegal to fly from Love Field to points beyond the four states surrounding Texas. The Wright Amendment also contains marketing restrictions, prohibiting Southwest Airlines from offering or advertising the availability of any connecting flights between Love Field and any city outside the Wright Amendment "service area." In 1997, Congress passed the Shelby Amendment, which added Alabama, Kansas, and Mississippi to the Wright Amendment service area. (from www.setlovefree.com)
But a provision in the bill makes Missouri exempt from Wright. And Southwest fought long and hard for this moment. It cited a study that predicted that the estimated fare savings would be $77 million - and 500,000 additional Missouri passengers would fly. That's along with the additional $218 million per year into the Missouri economy. "The push from Missouri allows us to create a competition laboratory, if you will, to prove our case," said Herb Kelleher, Southwest's executive chairman and co-founder, in a statement. "Our experience in 60 other markets tells us that carriers serving these markets will decrease their fares and increase their Missouri traffic."

As of now, the only airlines flying out of Love are Southwest and Continental Express. But that too will change, as American Airlines - based in next-door Forth Worth, and with a flagship hub at DFW and a hub at St. Louis - prepares to start service out of Love as well. American didn't want to start service at Love, where it leased three gates. "We didn't want to be forced to go to Love Field but we will go and we will compete aggressively," American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner said. Regardless, American has to upgrade its facilities at Love first, so they won't be flying out any time soon.

So this means war. Southwest and American have been rivals for many years, but this is taking it into the Southwest's backyard. Will AA flyers use the Love Field facilities, or will they opt for its mega-hub at DFW? Or will other passengers stick to Southwest?


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