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Love Field restrictions expire, Southwest launches new routes

Love Field restrictions expire, Southwest launches new routes
Passengers line up to board Southwest Flight 1013 to Denver, the first nonrestricted flight out of Love Field in Dallas. (Brandon Wade / Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Flight restrictions imposed 35 years ago on Texas' Love Field expired Monday, setting the stage for a likely airfare war between Southwest Airlines and its domestic competitors.

Southwest, which is headquartered at Love Field in Dallas, is expected to benefit the most from the end of the restrictions, but other airlines have already announced new routes to the airport.

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The so-called Wright Amendment, championed by U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas) in 1979, was intended to restrict airline traffic out of Love Field and direct more growth toward the then-fledgling  Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The legislation was supported by business interests in Dallas.

The last of the restrictions expired Monday.

Southwest, the nation's largest domestic carrier, announced new nonstop flights over the next few months from Love Field to Los Angeles International Airport, John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Lindbergh Field in San Diego,  San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport.

Round trips between Love Field and Los Angeles were priced starting at about $270.

With the restrictions lifted, Burlingame, Calif.-based Virgin America, a low-cost competitor of Southwest, announced three new daily nonstop flights from Love Field to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport, and starting on Oct. 28, four daily nonstop flights to New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Airline industry experts have predicted that the end of the Wright Amendment restrictions will free Southwest to better compete with other domestic carriers, leading to lower fares.

"The lifting of the Wright Amendment is a historic day for aviation – and one that will bring more flights and more choice to Dallas travelers," said David Cush, Virgin America's president and chief executive.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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