Since the compromise was reached, Southwest has added Boeing 737-800 aircraft which carry 175 passengers, 20 percent more than the Boeing 737-700s the airline has. The larger planes allow Southwest to add capacity at airports that are gate- or slot-constricted like Love Field. The airline has also added more seats to its older planes, increasing to 143 seats from 137 seats with its Evolve interior redesign.
And in the past four years, Southwest has added service to major business travel markets including LaGuardia Airport in New York, Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and Logan Airport in Boston.
The carrier will likely unveil its new schedule for nonstop flights out of Love Field in the spring, as Southwest typically opens up its fall schedule for ticket purchases about six months ahead.
Industry analysts speculate that Southwest will reduce its daily flights from Love to Houston, Austin, Lubbock and other markets as it adds destinations. Southwest is likely to add flights to its hubs in Los Angeles, Denver, Las Vegas and Chicago's Midway airport, they say.
"They are going to want to connect Dallas to those larger markets they've entered like New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., which were outside of the Wright Amendment perimeter," said Bill Swelbar, an airline researcher at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology.
Newer airports, lower fares
Consumers can expect airfares to drop on the new long-haul routes that Southwest launches from Love, but most of the airfares in and out of the Metroplex are likely to remain unchanged.
"Historically, whenever we've seen new routes, typically you will see four to eight months of loss-leading promotions, and then the fares sort of stabilize," said Rick Seaney, co-founder of Farecompare.com. "The bottom line is it helps on certain routes, maybe a dozen or so, where you'll see lower prices."
On the nonstop routes that Southwest adds to Love Field, Seaney said, he expects leisure fares to decline about 30 percent. Business travelers who typically purchase tickets seven days in advance will probably see a 20 percent discount, he said.
Low-fare competitor Spirit Airlines has already helped reduce fares on some routes out of DFW as the carrier has increased service to 26 destinations in two years. Fort Worth-based American, which handles about 85 percent of the passenger traffic out of DFW, has also faced competition from Virgin America and JetBlue Airways, which have added service to DFW.
"The airline industry is extremely competitive, and the expiration of the Wright Amendment will only intensify the competition for customers across the country and in the Dallas-Fort Worth market," American spokeswoman Stacey Frantz said.
Both airports in the Metroplex are spending hundreds of millions to make their terminals more appealing to customers.
DFW Airport is in the midst of a $2.3 billion, eight-year terminal renovation. The first part of the remodeled Terminal A opened this year with new concessions, terrazzo floors and a new ticketing area for American.
"Our focus has been doing what we need to do to be a competitive airport, not just with Love Field but with other airports including those around the world," said Phil Ritter, DFW Airport's executive vice president of government and stakeholder affairs.
Love Field, which serves about 8 million passengers annually, has spent more than $500 million demolishing old concourses and redesigning its terminal. The first half of the renovation opened in April, giving travelers concessionaires like La Madeleine, Cru Wine Bar and Sky Canyon by chef Stephan Pyles. The airport also installed power outlets and USB connections at every seat in the gate for travelers who want to charge their laptops or phones while they wait in the departure area.
The last phase of the project, which includes gates used by United Airlines and Delta Air Lines and a new baggage claim area, will be ready in October 2014, just in time for the Wright Amendment restrictions to end.
"On Oct. 13, , we will have guests to our new home so it was in our interest to spend the money to upgrade Love Field so people, when they came to our home, had a positive experience," Ricks said.
A study commissioned by Southwest Airlines suggests that North Texas travelers could save nearly $700 million annually on airfares if the Wright Amendment is repealed.
The Omaha Airport Authority board has urged Nebraska's congressional delegation to push for repeal.
The law needs to be signed by Bush, which is expected to happen in the next several days.
Round-trip fares on the eight flights will be $158 for tickets bought 14 days in advance and $258 for last-minute purchases.