Whole New Era: Southwest Airlines Expected To Announce DFW Service Next Month, Up To 23 Flights

It’s an exciting, tumultuous time at Southwest Airlines. They’re planning to launch redeye flights for the first time in their history. They’re planning new seats, including what appears to be extra legroom seating. They are preparing to partner and codeshare with other airlines. And they may be about to buy another airline.

And there’s another big change coming, too. Southwest Airlines is expected to announce the launch of Dallas – Fort Worth airport service at the end of April though this could be pushed back by availability of aircraft (Boeing delays).

This is monumental, considering the history of Southwest.

  • Southwest Airlines was founded at Dallas Love Field. Other airlines had agreed to move to DFW. They fought in court to keep Southwest from serving the closer-in airport. Southwest eventually won.

  • In response, Congress passed the Wright Amendment which limited what Southwest could do at Love Field. They were limited initially to flying within Texas and to contiguous states.

  • The list of states airlines could fly to from Love Field was expanded slightly, and the limitation didn’t apply to aircraft with 56 or fewer seats. Legend Airlines pulled seats out of planes to offer all premium cabin service from Love Field to business markets. They faced lawsuits over the plan, and American Airlines dumped capacity with their own premium cabin Fokker 100 service – putting Legend out of business.

    Ex-Legend Airlines DC-9 (Credit aeroprints.com via Wikimedia Commons)

  • When the Wright Amendment was finally lifted, Southwest went from being the oppressed to being the oppressor. The deal required the destruction of gates leaving Southwest in control of 18 out of 20 gates at the airport at the time. No one could come in and really compete against Southwest, and Love Field service couldn’t grow to compete against American at DFW.

  • Southwest was prevented from flying out of Dallas – Fort Worth unless they gave up gates at Love Field. That restriction expires in 2025.

Southwest’s next schedule extension, which should come around April 25th, should go all the way to March 5, 2025. Southwest has planned to go to DFW. We’ll either see a schedule at that point – with Southwest announcing beforehand – or we’ll know that Boeing has foiled their plans and it’ll come later in the year.

According to Enilria the following Southwest Airlines routes from Dallas – Fort Worth are currently rumored,

• Baltimore (BWI), ~ 2 roundtrips
• Cabo (SJD), less than daily
• Cancun (CUN), daily with less than daily in off-season
• Chicago MDW, ~3 roundtrips
• Denver (DEN), ~3 roundtrips
• Houston (HOU), ~ 4 roundtrips
• Las Vegas (LAS), ~2 roundtrips
• Los Angeles (LAX), ~2 roundtrips
• Nashville (BNA), ~2 roundtrips
• Orlando (MCO), ~2 roundtrips
• Phoenix (PHX), ~2 roundtrips

Southwest’s schedule might roll out in tranches, however, so that not all of these would be part of an initial announcement, and other routes might make the cut (including in place of some of these) as well.

The airline’s founding was all about its refusal to fly out of DFW airport. Their intra-Texas model depended on short commutes to the airport. The DFW Metroplex has evolved substantially over the past 50 years, and Dallas – Fort Worth it itself a closer airport to much of the population.

And Southwest can’t grow at Love Field anymore, in part because no one can given the reduction in gates there that handed the carrier a near-monopoly. So DFW growth now makes sense, and they’re likely to jump in just as soon as they’re able.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Will they be ramping and basing ops at the cargo ramps to accommodate their plus sized customers?

  2. The Prez should sign an executive order, deploying troops if necessary, and allow Dallas Love to have up to 20 bus gates initially. Currently bus gates are banned.

    An alternative would be to ban the use of single aisle passenger planes unless the relevant parties agree to lift Dallas Love restrictions. Let’s see how quick Southwest would cry uncle. Southwest cannot get Boeing 787’s anytime soon.

  3. worst kept secret in the airline industry.
    Of course they are going to DFW.
    AA’s prohibition against serving Love Field also expires in 2025 – I am not sure of the exact date.
    The only space that AA can use is the single gate that AS now uses.

    Expect a relatively minor N. Texas catfight but it will be fun to watch.

    And Boeing won’t stop Southwest from doing what it has to do

  4. Too bad AA is doing Loyalty Points because it would be a GREAT time for some segment runs just like when Spirit started DFW-PHL. Wait, credit to Alaska where miles still count…

  5. @DunkinDFDubya

    That’s halfway a valid point… I don’t see where WN would add these flights in, especially around some semblance of a business schedule to some of those markets, with permanent gates. They could very well have to hard stand some flights like others do during peak periods. So how does the whole boarding number thing works when you’re boarding a bus then boarding the plane?

  6. DFW needs to build a full Terminal F. Not enough room with WN and the plans for F with no curbside service is a disaster.

  7. For a while, WN’s DFW operation will look very much like it’s ORD operation. Which the leaked city frequencies seems to support. For those that think WN will drop 100 flights in overnight, you’re sadly mistaken. There are not a lot of surplus gates at DFW and AA will hoard as many as possilble.

  8. As a Fort Worth resident I’ll remind everyone here that Love Field itself shouldn’t even exist. Dallas & Fort Worth BOTH agreed to shut down and raze their individual airports to open up a joint one. Fort Worth kept it’s bargain and Dallas didn’t. 50 year’s later and Dallas is still playing games and should win a “prize” for it’s actions.

    Lastly, I agree with other comments above that DFW should go back to the original pre-pandemic plan for Terminal F. We built a full Terminal D dining the last downturn and that ended up to all of our benefit when air travel boomed and we all needed the space. Doing a “lite” version of Terminal F is a bad idea for many reasons. Least of which will be the increased traffic at all other terminals for check-in.

    If we want DFW to be the Biggest Airport in the world, we should invest to make that happen. ATL isn’t going anywhere and Denver is nipping at our heels.

  9. Fully agree with @BenG

    This whole Dallas Love Field situation is ridiculous. A 30min drive away you have this huge complex designed for growth yet rentseeking SWA have chosen to hide at DAL their entire life.

    Shut down DAL. It’ll be better for the consumer once SWA is forced to grow in DFW to maintain relevance

  10. Maybe I missed some thing but, will Southwest still fly out of Lovefield as well? I sure hope so because that’s all I fly and DFW is way too far.

  11. Funny! I work for the company and haven’t gotten the memo of exactly when on the DFW, and were usually the first to find out the date. And on red eyes, the media is blowing this up. First off, NO red eyes til 2026. Needs to be written (the language and litigations) and agrees on in the pilots contract. So before everyone goes hog wild, it’s NOT til 2026

  12. It will be an interesting 2025 for aa and WN.
    Gary, any chance you’d want to do an investigation (or just an article) into the two aa love field gates. Just so many interesting legal issues related to it.

    I’m not convinced aa can actually go back to love since the DOJ’s forced divestiture wasn’t tied to the wright amendment, but rather the aa/us merger but aa never sold the gates, only leased them.
    Delta is obviously sitting on an aa gate only because WN/Dallas got out of the UA/DL gate issue lawsuit by Alaska playing ball with an aa gate but it’s not like aa owed delta a gate due to that lawsuit, it was a United and Southwest issue.

    I’m a little surprised I haven’t seen an aviation blog look into the 2025 aa gate issue with more detail.

    Nothing against love field or southwest but I’ll admit I don’t understand how an airport that requires landing and taking off right over downtown makes sense when there’s an airport 20 miles away with ample space for anything.

  13. @MaxPower – while american leased out those gates, I don’t believe they revert. I’ve written about the extensive machinations behind the settlement that was part of lifting wright amendment restrictions – reduction in gates at Love, destruction and eminent domain of the legend terminal, gate shuffles and the lawsuit over the gate delta is now squatting.

    DFW does not have ample space to anything. The footprint of the airport is very large, larger than the island of manhattan, but they are building a new terminal and they’ve recently added stinger gates to A after having extended E out to E satellite gates.

    But the local market looks very different now than it did when DFW opened and the cities had a plan to close Love Field. DFW has a local catchment of its own very distinct from downtown Dallas. The two airports coexist really quite well…

  14. @Gary Leff

    Side Note about DFW:
    Had a conversation with a retired Delta pilot several years back. The extension gates that was part of the Delta hub at DFW in the past was informally known as “Gilligan’s Isle”

    Side Note about DAL:
    As for Delta holding on to the gate at DAL, it’s a move just to p**s off Southwest. No way DL is making money at that gate with only 5 flights a day. I’m sure AA gets some comic relief from the whole situation.

  15. Gary and MAX,
    I’m not sure that AA can’t go back to its now single gate at Love Field in 2025. The terms of the AA/US merger agreement and gate divestitures in multiple cities were not permanent.

    and DL is not squatting. They never were. The City of Dallas settled the lawsuit over DL’s gate access and DL gained one of the 2 original AA gates that were assigned to Virgin America and then AS as part of the AA-US gate divestiture.

    AS was not using its 2 gates to minimum requirements which is 7 flights/day at Love Field. 9 flights/day is considered full usage but airlines can use gates at more than full usage; gate 15 – which was the shared DL/WN gate was used well over that minimum.

    The City of Dallas – DL settlement runs until 2029 when all gate leases at Love Field expire. DL won the case on the basis that airports cannot expel airlines regardless of lease status if they serve an airport. DL maintained service at Love Field throughout the lawsuit and had a request to expand beyond its then 5 flights/day before WN announced its schedule to grow to or beyond 162 flights/day which was full usage of the 18 gates they have including the 2 ex-UA gates.

    WN tried to argue that its acquisition of the ex-UA gates superseded FAA gate usage requirements for all federally funded airports. Not only did a district judge agree with DL but so did the 5th circuit appeals court – which is why the City of Dallas settled the lawsuit with Delta at a significant cost.

    You are free to use the term “squatter” but it was wrong when WN used it; WN did not succeed at keeping DL out of Love Field but did succeed at getting exclusive use through 2029 for the 2 ex-UA gates.

    AS is still not consistently using its single remaining gate for 7 flights/day. AA could push to acquire “time” at that gate (not likely in a hostile manner) or AA and AS could agree to transfer that gate back to AA after 2025 – which is what is most likely to happen.

    Through 2029, Love Field is likely to be served by AA and DL, each with one gate and WN with 18 gates – with no increase in gates but a potential allowance for bus gates – which is prohibited currently.

    and there is still room to expand gates at DFW including adding a stinger onto the terminal E such as DL did with the lower level satellite terminal that DL built in the corner of the E semicircle

  16. exit row,
    the number of flights at a gate does not determine whether the flight makes money or not. DL is paying lease rates for that gate in line with what WN pays for 16 or its gates. Gate leases are a very small part of airline costs and if anyone is losing money, it is WN which spent tens of millions (I can’t even remember the exact amount) trying to buy the ex-UA gates and is paying well above market rates for those 2 gate leases.

  17. Tim
    Like it or not. Aa does have two gates at Love Field. Alaska is using one and delta the other.
    The question will be whether they can use them since Alaska is using one and delta is using the other, though delta’s fight is with Southwest, dallas, and united. Not aa. Delta was kicked out of United’s gates after DOJ forced AA to lease their gates to others.

    But Gary, cmon… there’s ample room at dfw for another terminal in this complete fantasy world where love field was no more and dfw needed a southwest terminal. I doubt south west would care much whether it’s connected to the rest of dfw in this entirely hypothetical world.

  18. MAX,
    I’m sorry but you don’t understand the situation at Love Field because you clearly don’t want to.

    AA had to divest its Love Field gate as part of the AA-US merger, Virgin America was chosen by the DOJ to be the operator on those gates and those 2 gates were transferred to AS with that merger, AS has not used their gates to full usage, the City of Dallas settled the lawsuit to DL by giving DL its own gate for exclusive use until 2029 when all gate leases at Love Field expire.

    There is no fight at Love Field any more. The case is closed and DL has a valid exclusive gate lease as long as it schedules 7 or more flights/day to anywhere it wants.

  19. Gary, Dallas and Southwest AND both if their PAID lobbyists broke the NUMEROUS agreements over DECADES to close LOVE. THEN the agreements morphed into restrictions. SW + Dallas has repeatedly not kept up ANY of their agreements. Ask anyone here in the rest of the Metroplex how they feel about Fort Worth closing all of their ops and Dallas not. It’s not fair and never has been. DFW originally had room for 14 terminals, then paired than down to the East side with 3 and west a mile plus long mega terminal. Love and Dallas and SW are shady and liars and broke numerous agreements and lobbied to change them at every chance. The Feds are proxies for those 3, so yes they CAN close LOVE and choose to redevelop the whole site.

  20. Tim
    This is a silly thing to argue about but aa did not give up their gates, the doj forced aa to lease them to virgin then Alaska took it over. Now delta has one of AA’s gates.
    Not sure why delta even wants the love field gate anyway. They’ve failed at every new route they’ve tried whether NYC or lax.

  21. @Tim
    With only five flights and all are B717; not much of a chance of making money considering gate agents, baggage handlers, airport fees, fuel, supervisor, equipment, etc. Also, DL had several other flights scheduled for DAL just a few months ago, and abruptly cancelled them before they flew.
    As noted, the gate is a place holder at DAL that p****s off Southwest.

    Sometimes, irritating the hell out of a competitor is priceless!!

  22. DAL is so much better than DFW. I drive past DFW to to go to DAL and fly SWA instead of AA. DAL actually has a useful CLEAR access point and parking in garage B is $13/day.

  23. Max
    it did not matter how AA lost control of its gates; what matters is that they were not used to Dallas’ use requirements by AS which provided a way for the City of Dallas to settle the lawsuit by taking a gate from AA and giving it to DL.

    DL has only served ATL and LAX from Love Field. They announced LGA but did not start it because the FAA asked airlines to reduce NYC flights. DL would have had to cut other destinations even further in order to add DAL flights which made little sense.

    and you and others think that argue that DL failed at LAX don’t know how well they actually did on the route (neither do I) but route decisions are driven (at least at DL) much more based on maximizing profitability which can be achieved multiple ways including possibility by operating high frequency ATL service.

    exit row,
    DL operates to many cities with fewer flights than it operates from Love Field

    and if DL’s goal is to pi89u off WN, it does it by flying those 717s which came from AirTran and WN paid to reconfigure to DL standards and still bear FL registration numbers.

    and if there is a little dance going on right now, it is DL hoping WN further downsizes ATL esp. in light of WN’s growth at BNA. WN operates several markets at ATL as a mini-hub with very little local traffic. Increasing ATL-DAL allows DL to take more Dallas traffic to the east.

    DL proves over and over that it thinks long-term with its strategies. The internet fans rarely are able to see strategy in anything more than a short-term lens and usually draw incorrect conclusions because of that view

  24. @ Tim Dunn, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” “Brevity is the sister of talent.”

  25. Couple things here. First off Herb would come back from the dead and kick everyone’s teeth in if Southwest moved its headquarters to DFW. Secondly, DFW is one of the worst airports to fly in based on airline traffic. It’s also one of the busiest. So, have fun wondering why your flights are delayed. Um, traffic. Just look at the airports Southwest now Flys into with traffic congestion. Laguardia, Miami, Ohare, Regan. But hey, they are money makers, so who cares if your flight is delayed 2 hrs due to congestion or you are #20 to take off. Just don’t come whining to me cause you prefer Regan, over BWI, IAD for example. Or opt to choose Ohare over Midway.

  26. I get it that there are markets also in areas with large congestion airports. And it was time to grow. But you can’t have both your cake and ice cream and eat it to. So gone are the days when airlines can turn a plane anymore to stay ontime. It’s more about the $ and markets. Yet all airlines do is “pad” the flights, which means add extra time to the flight to get away from having to report the delays. Even padded flights still run into congestion. I love being a flight attendant and understand the delays with the major airports. What I can’t get is the same question over and over. “Well why are we delayed? It’s a clear day out there” Look at the particular city you’re flying out of and expect that particular city to have delays. San Francisco for example. (Typical fog every morning causes delays)

  27. @Ben G you’re breaking my heart with your sad tail of being done wrong. Dallasites will be glad to close down Love as soon as Ft. Worth shuts down Alliance, which siphons off massive amounts of freight traffic from DFW.

  28. 1 trip (how’s that for abbreviated?)

    Some topics including N. Texas aviation can’t be explained in Twitter/X sized posts. They can’t even be explained in a set of encyclopedias

  29. What we see happening here is Southwest Airlines preparing for the possibility of endless pandemics. During the worst of Covid, DFW became the busiest airport in the world. For the sake of survival, it just makes good sense to have an easily implemented fallback plan.

  30. William,
    actually, depending on when in the pandemic you measured it, ANC was the busiest airport for quite some time.
    And DFW was busiest even as a passenger airport because AA cut back much less than DL did at ATL.
    Now that we are back to business as normal – as much as that is possible – ATL is back as the largest hub and busiest airport.

    specific to WN and DFW, I’m not sure why people are surprised that WN will add DFW and equally surprised that people think it will be a massive station.
    WN has added ORD and IAH, AA and UA hubs and both of those stations do ok. WN typically in the past did not try to serve other carrier hubs other than minimally. at ATL, they bought FL’s presence but then downsized; they continue to grow DEN – but so does UA which is trying to differentiate its product but also minimize WN’s fare advantages to justify UA’s growth.

    They will add the same routes from DFW to WN’s other hubs that they do from ORD and IAH and also add a few international markets since they can’t fly int’l from Love Field.

    DL uses the same strategy of flying to WN hubs esp. in AA and UA hub metros which is why DL flies to Love Field, IAH and MDW as well as OAK which AA and/or UA do not all serve.

    DL and WN both know that they have advantages in other airline strength markets.

  31. I just don’t think that business as normal will ever exist again. People are just now giving lots of thought to the reaction to the pandemic that took place. Men went to places to get haircuts before the pandemic. Many resorted to cutting their own afterwards. As the future could become one of endless pandemics, is going to a place to get ones hair cut still a convenience?
    The same is true with toilet paper. Is it still a convenience?
    We no longer live in that former free world, but one divided into both essential aristocratic businesses and lessor unessential common folk businesses.
    When a court is held to establish a Truth, two truths are presented to consider. During a manufactured event, a truth is forced onto the people.

  32. On a side note I’d love to see WN increase their presence at STL Lambert International. The airport is planning to build and or reconfigure their main terminal into a new single terminal design similar to MCI Kansas City International new airport. The airport is expected to have approximately 55-65 gates and could afford WN a bigger gate count to a city that has already proven itself to be a major player for the airline. With MDW being so close to Lake Michigan winter travel can snarl in Chicago causing flights to be delayed and or cancelled. We saw this during the winter of 2022 when all hell broke loose due to weather. Having a hub close enough to ORD and MDW could keep Domestic flights operating instead of causing a back up in Chicago due to lack of gate parking and deicing space they faced in 2022. STL has the runways and space to provide WN and their customers an opportunity to keep planes moving and keeping their customers happy. And with a new terminal the options if discussions start now could be an economic boom for the city of STL.

  33. This will be somewhat comical to watch, as Southwest DOES NOT interline bags or tickets. Zero connections out of DFW with other airlines also, unless no checking of bags and reserving point to point flights. Seems like the flights will only be geared towards the people of Dallas.

    Can’t wait to watch the cat fight between Southwest and AA management.

  34. Like it or not, Southwest will come to DFW. 23 flights is just a start, my guess is in 10 years they will be at 150+ flights a day and have exclusive use of the new terminal F plus some in D for international flights. AA wont be able to compete with WN on costs and will likely shrink at DFW over time.

  35. I’d love to see SW flights to RTB Roatan, as the AA flights are getting higher and higher with little competition.

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