This edition of Flashback Fridays is a bit different in that for the most part, the photos were taken just a few days ago, but the story is literally as old as Southwest Airlines. Take a look at the photo below because, chances are, the scene it depicts is now gone forever. Oh what a scene it represents though. In a physical sense, this is Gate 23 on the North Concourse of Love Field, and this was our first gate. Turn the clock back to June 17, 1971, the day before we began service. Herb Kelleher had been in court all day trying to stop last minute legal efforts to keep us grounded. He phoned Lamar Muse, our President, to tell him operations were a go for June 18. Lamar asked Herb what he should do if the sheriff showed up at 7:00 a.m. to stop the flight. Herb replied, “You roll right over him! Leave our tire tracks on his uniform if necessary.” Well, if that had happened, it would have happened here at Gate 23.
The gate also has a deeper meaning for both Southwest Employees and airline passengers. Southwest’s Warrior Spirit was born here through the ten-minute turn and all of the Original Employees who began their work days not knowing if that would be their last day of employment. The low-fare revolution began right here. The success of Southwest Airlines helped spawn airline deregulation in 1978, and this is the birthplace of that movement. Airlines like Muse Air, MorrisAir, WestJet, jetBlue, Ryanair, EasyJet, SkyBus, National (the one in Las Vegas), Gol, Virgin America, and many more, plus the airlines within an airline, Delta’s Song, Continental’s Lite, United’s Ted, and US Airways’ MetroJet, owe their rise to what happened at this gate.
We also operated out of Gate 25 (below), which was just next door. Both gates were acquired from Delta, which had built the second story addition to the concourse just a year or so previously, after Braniff had moved to its new concourse. The second floor addition was intended to be a stop-gap measure to see Delta through until it moved to the new Dallas Fort/Worth (DFW) Airport. When all the airlines moved to DFW in 1974, Southwest moved to the West Concourse, the former American facility, where we remain.
Photos of Southwest operations on the North Concourse are hard to find. The view below is from a 1971 edition of our original onboard Southwest Airlines Magazine, and it shows an Original Employee, Billy Lee Wooley, servicing the water on a flight parked at Gate 23. From 1974 to 1996 these two gates sat empty until the gates were renovated for our University for People.
Now, Love Field is in the middle of a massive modernization program which will result in a brand new concourse. One of the first steps in the process is the demolition of the North Concourse and the far end of the wing is already being placed into dumpsters.
As part of the demolition process, the gate signs were removed from the buildings, and here the workers are detaching the Gate 23 sign.
And, lowering it to the ground for safekeeping.
The original observation deck over the concourse will soon be history too
During the demolition and construction process, the airport will remain in operation.
Out of all this mess will rise a beautiful and comfortable new facility that will help Love Field to compete in the post-Wright Amendment world. for information on this ambitious project, please click here.