A friend reminded me that Saturday marked the first anniversary of a day I thought would never come. It was Oct. 13, 2006, that President Bush signed an amendment that contained what many call the "Love Field compromise." The compromise allowed, for the first time in more than 26 years, the sale of flights from Dallas' Love Field airport to destinations beyond Texas and its contiguous states. The result is that travel to Dallas has gotten cheaper and more plentiful. (See this Dallas Morning News article from Sept. 30, 2007, which has a lot of great facts.)
"Air fares to and from Love Field went down almost immediately after repeal of the anti-competitive Wright Amendment," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas' senior senator who helped lead the way on the compromise effort. "We are now at the one year anniversary of the repeal being signed into law. Our collective effort was a long process, but I am proud that all parties could come together to provide more competition and significantly reduce prices for North Texas travelers."
Having only lived in Dallas for 13 years, I often struggled to explain the Wright Amendment to friends, family, and perfect strangers. Since 1979, this now former Congressional amendment prevented Southwest from selling a ticket or marketing flights to its home airport from cities that knew darn well Southwest served it. We even had people call to complain that our web site was "broken" because it didn't list service to Dallas from the majority of our destinations. It generally took more than seven to ten seconds to explain why that was so, and how the US Congress could have approved such a thing. In my line of work as a spokesperson to the media, you rarely get more than ten seconds to explain anything. But, about the time I had somewhat perfected my ten-second quip, our CEO Gary Kelly shifted the sand in 2004, and we would embark upon one of the biggest legislative efforts in our history.
The solution would put us in the room with our cross-town rivals, American Airlines, and bring together the cities of Dallas and Ft. Worth which often were likened to the Hatfields and McCoys. Where once we were divided over a piece of legislative paper, we now were united with a presidential signature for the benefit of the entire region.
"In just the first year, travel to North Texas is easier and more affordable than ever," said our great Leader, Herb Kelleher, who is no stranger to the workings of Congress. The compromise immediately allowed "through-ticketing" of flights from Love to all Southwest's destinations, which still includes an interim stop, but nonstop flights will once again be allowed from Love in 2014. "Thanks to the hard work and support of Leaders such as Sen. Hutchison, it is the consumer who is the ultimate victor."
My friend's reminder was a great reason to look back at how far we continue to come, and I truly appreciate what it is that bolts me out of bed in the morning to see what happens next!