President Bush on Wednesday cleared Southwest Airlines to fly nonstop from Kansas City, Mo., into Dallas' Love Field, a move that could open new, low-cost flights for holiday travelers.
Among the early winners could be Kansas University football fans, should the Jayhawks be chosen, as expected, to play in the Fort Worth Bowl on Dec. 23. Love Field is a 38-mile drive from Amon G. Carter Stadium on the Texas Christian University Campus.
"We would be thrilled to serve them," said Linda Rutherford, a Southwest Airlines spokeswoman.
Southwest hasn't announced just how many flights will be added, or when, but within an hour after Bush signed the Senate appropriations bill Wednesday evening in Washington, airline officials already were looking forward to bringing their "lowest fares in the air" to Kansas City International Airport.
"We are poised to move very quickly," Rutherford said, noting that scheduling announcements would be made later this week.
The appropriations bill repealed a portion of a 26-year-old law known as the Wright Amendment, which limits Southwest's nonstop flights involving Love Field to flights coming and going from airports in only five states: Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. In 1997, the Shelby Amendment expanded the service area to include airports in Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama.
The latest amendment doesn't yet have a name, although it was pushed by Sen. Kit Bond, of Missouri, who wanted customers using airports in Kansas City and St. Louis to have access to low-cost fares without having to make connections through Tulsa or Oklahoma City.
Wednesday afternoon, customers booking round-trip flights on Southwest to Dallas - through Tulsa - would pay $245 and face layovers of several hours, according to Carlson Wagonlit Travel in Lawrence. Flying American to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport at comparable times would cost $287.
Officials with American long have fought to keep Southwest from getting permission to expand its nonstop services out of Love Field, while Southwest officials have pushed to lift all restrictions.
While Wednesday's bill-signing by President Bush lifted restrictions in only one state, Southwest isn't complaining.
"We will take this small victory and certainly we think it's going to be a great case study to see all the benefits of what happens in a free-market environment," Rutherford said. "Southwest Airlines has built its entire 34-year history as being the low fare policeman on the beat, if you will, and that reputation is not about to change."