Love Field is an airport in Dallas, Texas with the IATA Airport Code DAL. Love Field was the primary airport for Dallas until 1974 when Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport opened. Love Field is now Dallas' secondary airport and is primarily served by one airline, Southwest Airlines.
When the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth agreed to build Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW International) in the late 1960s, it was agreed that each city would decommission their own passenger-service airports. However, Dallas' Love Field was a busier airport than Fort Worth's and in a more desirable location, and so several entrepanuers saw opportunities for keeping it open, most notably Southwest Airlines.
Southwest Airlines was founded in 1971 and is headquartered at Love Field. Southwest built its business on selling quick, no-frills trips between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The notion of a quick trip would be destroyed by a long drive to the new large airport beyond the suburbs. Therefore, prior to the opening of DFW International Airport, Southwest Airlines appealed to the courts to keep Love Field open so it could remain there.
In 1973, the courts granted Southwest the right to continue to operate intrastate service out of Love Field, thus saving the airport from being decomissioned. Fearing that other airlines would operate out of Love Field, DFW International Airport stipulated that no airline could operate at the new airport if it continued to operate any flights out of Love Field. All other airlines complied, but Southwest was happy to remain at the older airport with its location within the city limits of Dallas. Therefore, when the new airport opened in 1974, Southwest Airlines was the only airline remaining at Love Field. With the drastic reduction in flights, Love Field had to decommission several of its terminals. However, over the following years Southwest's business flourished and general aviation and cargo business increased.
After deregulation of the U.S. airline industry in 1978, Southwest Airlines was able to enter the larger passenger markets and announced plans to start providing interstate service in 1979. This angered the City of Fort Worth and DFW International Airport who resented expanded air service at the airport within Dallas. Therefore, a Fort Worth congressman helped pass a law in Congress that restricted air service at Love Field. Using the pretext of protecting DFW International Airport, the Wright Amendment restricted passenger air traffic out of Love Field in the following ways: Passenger service on regular mid-sized and large aircraft could only be provided from Love Field to locations within Texas and the four neighboring states (Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico). Long haul service to other states was possible, but only on commuter aircraft with no more capacity than 56 passengers.
While this law did prevent any other major airlines from starting service out of Love Field, it did not deter Southwest Airlines. Based on short trips to begin with, Southwest continued to flourish as it used multiple short flights to take its passengers from Dallas to areas outside the Wright Amendment area. For example, a person could fly from Dallas to Houston or New Orleans, change planes, and then fly to any city Southwest served. This had the effect of creating mini-hubs at Houston/Hobby Airport and the New Orleans Airport. Southwest continued to grow and became one of the most successful and profitable airlines in the United States.
Due to the success of Southwest Airlines, other airlines began considering the use of Love Field for short haul trips. Continental Airlines expressed its intent to fly out of Love Field in 1985, which led to years of court battles over the interpretation of the Wright Amendment as Fort Worth and DFW International Airport continued to try to prevent expansion at Love Field. Seeing the benefit of increased air traffic at Love Field, the City of Dallas began to actively lobby for the repeal of the Wright Amendment restrictions in 1992. In 1997, the Shelby Amendment successfully passed through Congress, which amended the Wright Amendment. A compromise of sorts, the Shelby Amendment allowed Love Field flights to three more states, Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama. In addition, it expanded the definition of 56-passenger jets that could fly to other states.
The passage of the Shelby Amendment caused several airlines to consider flying 56-passenger jets out of Love Field, including Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, and a new airline, Legend Airlines. The City of Fort Worth immediately sued the City of Dallas to try to prevent the Shelby Amendment from going into effect. American Airlines, headquartered at DFW International Airport, joined the lawsuits against Dallas, but also said that if other airlines were allowed to fly out of Love Field, it would have no choice but to offer competing service. In 1998, After a year of legal decisions and appeals, Continental Express became the first major airline other than Southwest to fly out of Love Field since 1974. American Airlines began service out of Love Field shortly thereafter, but continued to sue to stop the service. Fort Worth and American Airlines eventually sued the U.S. Department of Transportation to stop allowing more flights out of Love Field.
In 2000, several Federal appeals court decisions finally struck down all lawsuits against the Shelby Amendment. Fort Worth and American Airlines appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to review the case. These legal decisions opened the door to increased long haul flights out of Love Field using 56-passenger jets, including new service by Delta Airlines and Legend Airlines. The majority of this 56-passenger jet market was comprised of business travelers making day trips to other cities.
In 2001, the September 11th Terrorist Attacks and the subsequent recession greatly reduced the demand for air travel in the United States, especially within the business traveler market. As a result, most of the airlines providing long haul 56-passenger flights stopped service and pulled out of Love Field. By 2003, Southwest Airlines and Continental Express were the only two major commercial airlines operating out of Love Field. However, due to Southwest's success and the possibility of other airlines returning in the future, the airport has completed an expansion of its parking facilities and is redeveloping one of its terminals.
Love Field celebrated 85 years in the aviation industry in 2002 and was designated as a Texas State Historical Site in 2003.