* New York, Chicago, Atlanta among big cities to be served
* Flights could enhance profitability -analyst
* Airline shares move lower
By Karen Jacobs
Feb 3 Southwest Airlines Co said on
Monday it will offer nonstop flights from its base at Dallas
Love Field in Texas to 15 major cities including Chicago, New
York and Los Angeles later this year, after flight restrictions
from that airport expire.
The carrier plans to fly nonstop to Baltimore, Denver, Las
Vegas, Orlando, Florida; and Chicago Midway from Oct. 13.
Service to Atlanta, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, New York
LaGuardia, Phoenix and other U.S. cities will begin on Nov. 2.
The new Love Field flights are planned as Southwest,
traditionally a low-cost carrier, prepares to serve more U.S.
cities with airport assets gained in New York and Washington
after American Airlines Group Inc sold takeoff and
landing rights. Southwest will start international service under
its own brand this year as it completes the integration of
"This is an opportunity for Southwest to capture passengers
in the Dallas area who are now using other carriers to go
nonstop to these points," said George Hamlin, an aviation
consultant who is president of Hamlin Transportation Consulting
in Fairfax, Virginia.
"Since many of these are business centers that probably
generate considerable high-yield traffic, I think this is an
opportunity for profitability enhancement on Southwest's part."
Hamlin said American, the dominant carrier at nearby Dallas
Fort Worth Airport, may lose some traffic to Southwest in the
short term after the new nonstop flights start from Love Field.
In the late 1970s, a federal law called the Wright Amendment
was introduced which restricted nonstop flights that airlines
could operate out of Love Field to nine states. U.S.
Representative Jim Wright, a Texas congressman who served as
House Speaker, was concerned that Dallas Love service would harm
Dallas Fort Worth Airport.
Southwest said on Monday that the October expiration of the
law will allow direct flights to 41 more states and the District
The repeal "signifies a turning point for the Southwest
brand not just in Dallas, but from coast-to-coast," Southwest
Chief Executive Gary Kelly said in a statement.
In recent months, Southwest won takeoff and landing rights
at Reagan National Airport near Washington and at New York's
LaGuardia that American is selling under a merger agreement with
the U.S. government.
"What you're seeing is Southwest being fleshed out
nationally," Hamlin said. "Southwest geographically has become
pretty much a full-spectrum competitor in the lower 48" states,
with a presence in most major cities now.
In preparation for flight expansion, Southwest has been
renovating Love Field - which was established by the Army in
1917 and began airline service in 1929 - with a new concourse
and gates, remodeled lobby and new ticketing wing.
Shares of Southwest were down 2.5 percent at $20.42 on
Monday afternoon, after shares of most other airlines headed
lower. Shares of United Continental Holdings Inc were
down 4.1 percent at $43.94 and Delta Air Lines Inc was
down 3.5 percent at $29.54.
Jim Corridore, an equity analyst with S&P Capital IQ, said
airlines have outperformed in recent weeks and are likely
selling off along with the broader market. He also said news of
a new winter storm hitting the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S.
regions could be pressuring the sector.