Southwest Airlines is planning its busiest year ever at Dallas Love Field and bringing back a handful of nonstop flights that weren’t on the schedule a year ago to cities such as Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Louisville, Ky.; Palm Springs, Calif.; and Minneapolis.
Dallas-based Southwest, which has been constrained for years at Love Field, will send more than 200 flights a day out from the airport during peak summer travel rush in July and August, more than the company flew before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from Diio by Cirium.
Love Field is also getting a boost from Delta Air Lines, which said it will add routes to New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Los Angeles International Airport starting in June.
Southwest Airlines spokesman Chris Perry said in a statement that the carrier’s goal was to restore its network by the end of this year.
Cross-town rival American Airlines also is planning to boost flights out of DFW International Airport this summer compared with a year ago, but the carrier is struggling to reach 2019 flight levels because of the limitted number of pilots at the regional level. However, by using bigger planes, American is planning to fly about 7% more passengers out of DFW than it did in 2019, Cirium’s data shows.
Southwest’s boosted plans come after it settled a years-long lawsuit with Delta and Alaska Airlines over the use of one of the gates at Love Field. Love Field is federally restricted to 20 gates and previously assigned 17 of those to Southwest. Now Southwest gets one more, allowing it to add extra flights. Alaska and Delta use the other two.
“The majority of the growth is from the resolution of the gate conflict between Southwest, Alaska and Delta,” said Jeff Pelletier, managing director of Dallas-based Airline Data Inc. “Southwest hasn’t been able to grow with 17 gates at Love Field, so the only way to add flights is with more gates.”
The ambitious plans could bring 1.96 million passengers to Love Field during the projected busiest month in July, which would shatter the previous record of 1.5 million set in July 2018.
Heading into 2023, Southwest is the most bullish of any airline, most of which are pulling back on overall capacity because of a shortage of pilots at the regional level. Southwest, which doesn’t use regional airlines, is planning as many as 131,178 flights nationwide in August, 7.6% more than a year ago and bigger than any comparable month before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airlines are showing restraint coming into 2023 after a tumultuous 2022 that ended with Southwest canceling 16,700 flights during the last 10 days of the year. The Department of Transportation said in January that it is investigating Southwest for “unrealistic scheduling.”
“Almost all of the capacity in 2023 is going into restoring the network,” Jordan said. “It’s going into existing city pairs, adding depth and breadth. And all that is not just good for our customers. It’s good for the operation and operational reliability.”
Southwest’s plans include more flights to popular destinations such as Chicago Midway and Denver International Airport, which are getting one or two additional flights from Love Field.
But it also includes the return of some routes that have dropped in and out of Southwest’s schedule. Southwest stopped flying from Love Field to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in April 2022 but is bringing that route back in March with two flights a week.
Flights to Philadelphia are coming back in April after disappearing between January and March. Twice-a-week flights to Reno, Nev., are returning in June after disappearing in January.
Flights to seasonal airports such as Norfolk, Va., are coming back in April and the Bozeman, Mont., route is coming back in June.