Love Field History
When the Army established Love Field on October 19, 1917, the facility consisted of a few hangars and a grass landing strip located in the countryside outside of Dallas. Over 92 years later, the airport which was named for Army flyer Moss Love who was killed in a 1913 San Diego flying accident and the city it serves would be unrecognizable to those initial Army flyers.
Airline service first came to Love on June 1, 1929, when Delta Air Service operated the first passenger flight from Dallas to Jackson, Mississippi, via Shreveport and Monroe. Early flights operated from a passenger terminal near Bachman Lake, which later served as Southwest Airlines’ first Headquarters Building. In 1940, a new terminal opened at the end of what is now George Coker Circle, just off Lemmon Avenue, and after World War II, the building was expanded twice to meet the need for additional air travel.
Meanwhile, in 1953, Fort Worth opened Amon Carter Field just south of the present Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and the facility was a showplace with marble floors and walls featuring gold leaf murals. It was also closer to Dallas than Fort Worth. Faced with the attraction of a nearby modern terminal, Dallas realized it needed a modern terminal of its own. The current Love Field terminal opened in 1958, and the building featured three concourses with moving sidewalks, and a Dallas tradition, the Luau Room restaurant, above the main lobby. The five-year-old terminal secured its place in the nation’s history on November 22, 1963, when John Kennedy arrived on his fatal, final journey to Dallas. Later in the afternoon, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the new president aboard Air Force One parked at the east concourse.
Love Field’s new terminal and larger selection of flights attracted an increased number of flyers, and by the late sixties, all commercial traffic had moved to Love Field Airport. Until the opening of the new Dallas/Fort Worth Regional (now DFW International) Airport on January 13, 1974, Love was North Central Texas’s primary airport. In spite of the new airport under construction, airlines had to expand their facilities at Love in the interim. Braniff built a new ticket counter area and concourse that featured the “Jet Rail” which carried passengers from a checkin position in the parking lot to the gates. American, Delta, and Continental also expanded and upgraded their Love Field Facilities.
As construction began on the new DFW Airport in 1969, all of the existing airlines signed agreements to move their flights to the new airport when it opened. Due to legal proceedings trying to prevent its formation, Southwest wasn’t operating at the time and could not sign the agreement. Southwest began service on June 18, 1971 as an intrastate carrier with flights between Dallas and Houston and San Antonio using gates acquired from Delta on the North Concourse. The new and struggling low cost carrier felt its survival hinged on being able to serve the Houston and San Antonio markets from Love Field, and it fought to stay at Love. Years of legal battles culminated on January 28, 1977 when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction by U.S. District Court Judge William Taylor that allowed Southwest to remain at Love. The Supreme Court refused to override the ruling.
After the other carriers moved to DFW in 1974, the City of Dallas opened an ice rink inside the terminal lobby. Meanwhile, on Super Bowl Sunday of that year, Southwest had moved its operation from the North Concourse to the old American Airlines concourse. In the period up to 1978, Southwest began service to almost every major Texas city from Dallas Love. 1978 saw the passage of the Airline Deregulation Act, which would bring price and route competition to the skies over America, and deregulation came about primarily due to the success of intrastate carriers like Southwest.
The new legislation also gave Southwest the chance to serve cities beyond Texas, and in 1979, the carrier was awarded the Dallas/New Orleans route, its first outside of Texas. Alarmed that interstate service from Love Field would harm the DFW Airport, House Speaker Jim Wright introduces legislation that would restrict interstate service from Love. The final version of this legislation prohibited service between Love Field and any point outside of Texas and the four states surrounding Texas: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. The 1997 Shelby Amendment added Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi to the Love Field Service Area, and Missouri was added in 2005.
Other carriers, including Braniff, Texas International, American, Continental, Delta, and Legend served Love Field at various times over the three-plus decades after the opening of DFW Airport, and some continue their Love Field flights. During that time span, the terminal would change and adapt also. The original red façade of the Terminal would be replaced with the current metallic look, a new air traffic control tower would be opened, and a new multi-story parking garage would be constructed. To meet the needs of a post-9/11 world, the security checkpoints were enlarged.
In recognition of the maturity of the DFW Airport, the Wright Reform Act of 2006 became law in October of that year. This compromise legislation came about with the agreement of the Cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, the DFW Airport Board, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. The new legislation allowed through ticketing and one-stop, direct through flights to points beyond the Love Field Service Area to begin immediately, and in 2014, all domestic flight restrictions of the Wright Amendment will be repealed. This legislation also caps the number of gates available to airlines. The Love Field Modernization Program comes out of that agreement.
Click Here to Download Final Executed 5 Party Agreement