Expanding to DFW Airport ‘could be a way’ to grow in Dallas area

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan said the carrier could expand to DFW International Airport when a key restriction drops in 2025 as the airline looks for a way to grow in the Dallas area.

“We want to continue to serve the area and at some point that becomes difficult given the capacity at Love Field,” Jordan said Thursday on a call with investors and reporters after the company’s second quarter earnings report. “As we will look to add capacity generally to the extent that we can, there are a lot of potential ways to do that. Obviously, DFW could be a way to do that. “

However, he said the airline doesn’t “have anything in process” and DFW Airport said it isn’t negotiating with Southwest either.

The question about Dallas-based Southwest’s plans for Love Field comes as a rule in the complicated five-party agreement that governs Love Field drops in 2025. Under the existing rule that has been codified by Congress, Dallas Love Field is limited to 20 gates and Southwest Airlines, which controls 18 of those gates, can’t expand to another airport in the region without giving up space at Love Field.

In 2025, Southwest can expand without penalty.

Southwest Airlines could expand to DFW Airport in 2025 as Love Field restriction expires

Love Field’s director of aviation, Mark Duebner, said he thinks Southwest intends to expand to DFW in 2025 when the rule expires.

At one time it would have been out of character for Southwest to move to a second airport in the Dallas area, but the carrier expanded to second airports in several markets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it’s common for us to serve multiple airports in a metro area,” said Southwest chief commercial officer Andrew Watterson. “We do that in the Los Angeles Basin area, San Francisco Bay area, Washington, DC, Houston, Chicago, so it would be normal for us to have another airport served in a large population base like Dallas.”

But the only reason the airline would even consider expanding is because it can’t fly any more than it already does out of Dallas Love Field, which is also where the company’s headquarters is located.

Dallas Love Field is the carrier’s fifth-busiest airport by the number of flights, but other airports in the region in Houston and Denver have grown along with Southwest Airlines while Dallas Love Field has remained the same size for more than a decade. Love Field can’t host international flights either.

That opens up Southwest expanding to DFW International or another local airport such as Fort Worth Alliance or McKinney National, or it could work out some kind of compromise. But since Love Field is legally prohibited from adding more gates and those other airports don’t have commercial passenger capabilities at the moment, DFW would be the clearest expansion choice.

“The issue isn’t DFW,” Jordan said. “The issue is ‘How do we continue to serve the area?’ That’s really the issue at stake. “

Jordan said the carrier’s number one goal is to “to secure the gates that we have at Love Field” after making millions of dollars of investments and commitments since the airport was allowed to start serving any state in the US in 2014.

“We put a lot of money into Dallas Love Field, basically rebuilding the airport and adding gates, and we’re very happy there,” Jordan said.

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