Southwest is Now Free to Move About the Country


May 23, 2014 9:53AM

On my return from a recent work trip to Dallas, something piqued my interest. As my shuttle drove me into Love Field, I noticed that Southwest Airlines had snatched up every single billboard in sight. Each advertised that, beginning this fall, the airline would be launching several new direct flights, including one from Dallas to Nashville. “Ready. Set. Reagan,” read one advertising a new leg to the nation’s capital. Another proclaimed, “Go-Go San Diego.” What caused the airline’s spike in nonstop flights? The answer lies in a victory over cronyism. Back in the late 1970s, Southwest’s competing airlines – which had all abandoned Love Field for the newly minted Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – sought to cripple the airline’s growth. Via federal legislation carried by Forth Worth area Rep. Jim Wright, other airlines were able to restrict air traffic out of Love Field. As a result of what became known as the Wright Amendment, Southwest could only offer direct flights within Texas or bordering states, prohibited from providing nonstop service from Dallas to the rest of the country. This did not immediately impact Southwest, but as it grew over the next few years, the airline had to make pit stops in other cities on flights to and from Dallas. Thus, my flight from Nashville stopped briefly in Austin, and my return flight detoured through San Antonio. This is incredibly inconvenient for consumers, adding an hour plus to their flights. And it was all done by collusion between Southwest’s competition and the United States Congress. But freedom can prevail over cronyism, and as of October of this year, the Wright Amendment will be slung upon the ash heap of history. Southwest will therefore be free to offer any direct flights it wishes out of Love Field. The final billboard on the turn into the airport’s entrance sums up the end of this storied chapter in cronyism most pointedly: “Wright Closes. America Opens.” -Justin Owen

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