The skies over Charleston could get a little busier.
Less than a week after JetBlue Airways announced two new daily flights to Washington, D.C., in June, Southwest Airlines said Monday it intends to add nonstop service to Dallas Love Field if it is awarded two gates there.
The number of daily flights has not been determined, but it could be two, said Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins. Each flight would seat 143 passengers on Boeing 737 aircraft.
The gates came open because of the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. The new American had to shed several gates across the nation as part of the deal.
Dallas-based Southwest already offers nonstop service between Charleston International and Baltimore, Chicago, Houston and Nashville with seven daily flights.
Southwest already controls 16 of the 20 gates at Love Field and is competing for the two extra gates with Virgin America. Delta Air Lines also wanted them, but the Justice Department nixed its request.
Love Field has been restricted to mostly short-haul flights within Texas and neighboring states under the Wright Amendment. The law will expire in October, opening up the airfield to long-haul flights. Virgin America and Delta already serve nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Southwest plans to add 20 flights to 12 new nonstop destinations if it acquires the Love Field gates, including Charleston.
The addition of one new flight between Charleston and Dallas would result in 40,000 new passengers a year, said Gary Edwards, an aviation consultant to the Charleston County Aviation Authority and the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It opens up some places in Texas that are unserved for us," Edwards said. "It opens up the depth of the great Texas market."
Charleston tourism chief Helen Hill said Dallas would be a good market for business and leisure travelers. "Whenever we have a direct-flight city, we have higher visitation from that city," Hill said.
Charleston is not on the list of new cities Virgin America would serve if it's awarded the gates. The carrier contends Southwest controls 80 percent of the gates at Love Field and more competition is needed.
The Justice Department and the city of Dallas will have a hand in the final decision, Edwards said.
Charleston officials see the Dallas route as another plus for the airport and a vote of confidence by Southwest in the local market.
"This speaks volumes to the vitality of our air service market and how attractive Charleston and the Lowcountry are as a travel destination," said Paul Campbell, director of Charleston County's three airports.
Notice about comments: