Image: Love Field
Matt Slocum  /  AP
American Airlines said flights from Dallas' Love Field, which is closer to downtown, will cost them. But they will also stop the carrier from losing passengers to rival Southwest.
updated 3/2/2006 4:47:08 PM ET 2006-03-02T21:47:08

American Airlines on Thursday began flying from Love Field for the first time in five years, raising the stakes in a showdown with rival Southwest Airlines Co., which is based at the Dallas airport.

American, based at nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, is flying 16 times a day from Love Field to St. Louis, Kansas City, Austin and San Antonio — all Southwest destinations. The airport is closer to downtown Dallas than the international airport.

The flights are in response to Southwest’s winning permission from Congress late last year to fly from Love Field to St. Louis and Kansas City. Southwest has been pushing for repeal of a 1979 law that limits long flights at Love Field — a move opposed by American.

American, owned by Fort Worth-based AMR Corp., has lost more than $8 billion since the beginning of 2001. Officials with American said the Love Field flights could be costly in the short term but are necessary to avoid losing Dallas passengers to Southwest.

Southwest, the only consistently profitable major U.S. airline, says the 1979 law known as the Wright Amendment is anti-consumer.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, planned to convene a meeting of Texas lawmakers Thursday to consider possible changes in the law.

Southwest has said it is reconsidering relocating its headquarters to Phoenix. In addition to the Wright Amendment, Southwest has been upset with recently increased airport landing fees.

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller said this week that Southwest’s talk of a move is mostly bluff. She said the company has been “finding new ways to accentuate the fact that they would like to fly unfettered, and I think this is a piece of that campaign.”

Meanwhile, both airlines have rolled out competitive new extras. American began offering triple frequent flier bonuses on Love Field flights. Southwest said it would give frequent-flier rewards to passengers on partner ATA Airlines, which flies to Hawaii.

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