The big news for Dallas-area travelers in recent weeks is that Southwest announced 15 new nonstop routes from Dallas Love Field beginning next fall.
Nonstop flights to five destinations will begin on Oct. 13, when the Wright Amendment restrictions on nonstops out of Love Field end. Nonstop flights to 10 more cities will start in November.
Southwest will begin offering nonstop flights to Baltimore, Chicago Midway, Denver, Las Vegas and Orlando on Oct. 13; and to Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York LaGuardia, Orange County, Calif., Phoenix, San Diego, Tampa and Washington Reagan National on Nov. 2.
This is great news for travelers because we should initially see fares go down on these routes because of the new nonstop competition. The exception is flights to Denver because those fares are already cheap. We've seen fares as low as $98 round trip between Dallas and Denver, and it's common to see fares between $118 and $158 round trip.
Southwest will have to compete with American Airlines, which offers a ton of nonstops on all of these routes, and with Spirit on the majority of these routes.
Spirit already flies from Dallas to 12 of Southwest's newly announced nonstop cities. We've seen some heavy competition on routes served by Spirit.
When you are comparing fares, remember Spirit offers nothing for free. Spirit offers cheap fares, but you'll pay a minimum of $35 for your carry-on if you prepay and $100 if you pay at the gate. You'll also pay for an advanced seat assignment. Soft drinks are $2.
It remains to be seen if Spirit will want to compete with Southwest or if it will rethink flying out of the area.
We probably won't see Southwest offer introductory fares on these new nonstops until May, and we think that the introductory fares will be in the range of $99 to $139 one-way. We could also see Snooze-You-Lose fares offered by competing airlines once Southwest announces its prices.
We're expecting to see the fares in May; Southwest usually offers introductory fares and seats five to six months in advance.
While Southwest has announced its planned routes, the airline hasn't announced the number of flights it will offer per day to these new destinations. With only 20 gates, capacity at Love Field is limited, and Southwest has 16 of those gates.
American offers at least 15 nonstops daily from Dallas to Chicago, New York LaGuardia and Los Angeles, but due to the limited gate space, don't expect Southwest to even come close to that.
The next 10 months will be interesting and will bring a new era of airfare battles at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Love Field. We may see some price increases in some markets, but we will have some competition that other cities would love to have.
There is no doubt in my mind that American, Delta and United will match the introductory fares offered by Southwest.
While I have people tell me that Southwest's airfares are not cheaper than competing airlines, there are perks that Southwest offers that other airlines do not. When comparing fares, remember that if you need to check two bags, it can cost up to $120 round trip on other carriers. If you need to change or cancel your ticket, it can cost $200 on other carriers.
We still have one airline giving us two checked bags free and no change or cancellation fees — and that airline is Southwest.