Columbus Day 2014 will be an exciting day at Southwest Airlines. That Monday, 14 October, the Wright Amendment will be repealed and the carrier will be able to launch flights from its home base at Dallas Love Field airport to anywhere in the USA for the first time since 1974.
Where those flights will go is still up in the air.
"We have a vision of what routes we want to undertake [from Love Field] in 2014, but it doesn't make sense to lock that down," said Gary Kelly, chief executive of Southwest, recently. He said that the airline needs to gain a clearer idea of its fleet size and economic environment before it will make the final decision.
I took a look at US Department of Transportation data for the top markets from Dallas-Fort Worth International during the 12 months ending in June, and it offers some insight into where Southwest may go.
Flights to Atlanta (number 3), Chicago (2), Denver (4), Las Vegas (10), Los Angeles (1), New York (5, though not including John F. Kennedy or Newark airports) and Phoenix (9) are probably at the top of Southwest's list, considering how much traffic the markets already generate from the Dallas area and the airline's large existing operations in each of the cities except New York. I am not including Oakland or San Francisco because I think the airline may continue to route travellers to the Bay Area on one-stops through places like Las Vegas or Phoenix due to limited room to expand at Love Field.
Baltimore, Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando are also likely high priority markets for new flights from Love Field. Southwest has large operations at each of these airports, which provide significant connecting opportunities elsewhere in its network.
Source: Southwest Airlines
Chicago Midway, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Phoenix, Denver, Houston Hobby, Love Field, Los Angeles, Oakland and Orlando are Southwest's largest markets in terms of the number of flights.
Flights from Love Field are restricted by the Wright Amendment to Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas on any aircraft, or to anywhere in the USA on aircraft with up to 56 seats. Terminal capacity at the airport is capped at 20 gates once the restrictions are lifted.