Once unthinkable, Southwest is considering DFW flights

Southwest Airlines: The Rise and Potential Expansion at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)


Southwest Airlines, a major player in the US aviation industry, has experienced remarkable growth and success since its inception. Known for its low-cost fares, excellent customer service, and unique corporate culture, Southwest has become the largest domestic carrier in the United States. However, its operations have been predominantly centered around Dallas Love Field (DAL), rather than the larger Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). In this article, we will explore the history of Southwest’s presence at Love Field, the challenges it faced in expanding to DFW, and the potential opportunities that lie ahead.

The Battle for Love Field

Southwest Airlines’ relationship with Love Field has been a defining aspect of its existence. Love Field, located in the heart of Dallas, served as Southwest’s main hub since its establishment in 1971. However, the airline faced significant obstacles in maintaining its operations at Love Field due to the enactment of the Wright Amendment.

The Wright Amendment, a federal law passed in 1979, restricted flights out of Love Field to destinations within Texas and four neighboring states. This limitation was an attempt to promote the growth of the newly established Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, which was set to open in 1974. Southwest Airlines, with its focus on providing low-cost flights to various destinations, found itself at odds with this restriction.

Southwest vs. American Airlines

American Airlines, one of the dominant carriers operating out of DFW, saw Southwest as a potential threat to its market share. American Airlines, along with other airlines, fought against Southwest’s continued operations at Love Field, leading to a prolonged battle between the two airlines.

Southwest’s charismatic founder, Herb Kelleher, led the charge in gaining public and political support for the airline. Through various publicity stunts and public relations efforts, Southwest managed to sway public opinion in its favor. The battle between Southwest and American Airlines intensified over the years, with the Wright Amendment gradually being whittled down, allowing Southwest to expand its operations beyond the restricted states.

The Expiration of Restrictions

Despite the gradual easing of the Wright Amendment’s restrictions, Southwest Airlines remained barred from flying out of DFW as long as it continued to operate at Love Field. However, a significant turning point came when the restriction was set to expire in 2025. This expiration opened up the possibility for Southwest to consider expanding its operations to DFW.

Southwest’s CEO, Bob Jordan, acknowledged the limitations of Love Field during the Skift Aviation Forum in November 2021. He highlighted the airport’s constrained capacity of only 20 gates, with Southwest occupying 18 of them. Jordan emphasized the need to ensure proper service to the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and maintain Southwest’s presence at Love Field before considering any expansion to DFW.

Potential Expansion to DFW

With the expiration of the Wright Amendment’s restrictions on flying out of DFW, Southwest Airlines now has the opportunity to explore new horizons. The airline’s management has expressed interest in potentially operating flights from both Love Field and DFW, which would significantly expand its reach and provide passengers with more options.

DFW, as one of the busiest airports in the world, offers extensive connections and a larger customer base. By establishing a presence at DFW, Southwest Airlines would be able to tap into new markets and compete more directly with other major carriers operating out of the airport, such as American Airlines.


Southwest Airlines’ journey from a small carrier operating out of Love Field to a major player in the aviation industry has been filled with challenges and triumphs. The airline’s refusal to fly out of DFW due to the Wright Amendment’s restrictions nearly defined its early years. However, with the expiration of these restrictions in 2025, Southwest now has the opportunity to explore expansion to DFW.

While the potential expansion to DFW presents new opportunities, Southwest remains committed to its roots at Love Field. The airline’s focus on maintaining its presence and serving the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is of utmost importance. Whether Southwest Airlines ultimately decides to operate flights from both Love Field and DFW or focuses solely on its home base, it is clear that the airline’s future is poised for continued growth and success.

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