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Expiration Of The Wright Amendment and Its Impact On Southwest Airlines’ Sponsorship Strategy

By Bryce McMichael Oct 8, 2013

Expiration Of The Wright Amendment and Its Impact On Southwest Airlines’ Sponsorship Strategy

Ever noticed you cannot book a direct, non-stop flight between Dallas and LA, Chicago, New York or Atlanta on Southwest Airlines? Do you know why? Many Southwest loyalists and longtime residents of North Texas know the answer is the Wright Amendment.

This contentious piece of legislation dates back to 1979, when a burgeoning Southwest Airlines began to fly direct routes to its first non-Texas destination (New Orleans) from Dallas-Love Field. Officials from Dallas and Fort Worth, co-owners of DFW Airport, saw this as a threat and lobbied then U.S. House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Ft. Worth) to pass legislation restricting Southwest’s flights from Love Field to destinations solely within Texas’ borders. When that met resistance, the law was amended to also allow flights to four adjoining states – Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico—and it was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. The law remains largely unchanged today but for the addition of Kansas and Missouri in later years.

The Wright Amendment is set to expire on October 14, 2014. On that date, residents of Dallas, and those who frequently visit, will truly be “free to move about the country” direct on Southwest (and other carriers) out of Love Field.

How will this affect Southwest’s sponsorship strategy in its bigger markets across the country? According to the July 15, 2013 edition of IEG Sponsorship Report, Southwest uses sponsorship to tap into local passion points and educate customers about the Southwest travel experience – currently, the airline’s strategy revolves around building awareness in former AirTran markets such as Charlotte; Portland, Maine; and Grand Rapids, Mich. Care to take a guess what the airline will be educating customers about a year from now? Furthermore, Southwest has identified Atlanta, Chicago, and Denver as key growth markets – three locations that would benefit from brand new non-stops to Dallas.

In the months leading up to and following the Wright Amendment’s repeal, it is not a stretch to expect Southwest to shout from the mountaintops about its brand new (and increased) daily non-stops to and from Dallas. If you are a property in any of those markets, that’s got to be music to your ears.

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About the Author

Bryce — director, client leadership with ESP Properties — assists rightsholders and sponsors in developing strategy behind their corporate sponsorship programs. His diverse list of clients includes American Film Institute, Red Bull Air Race, Chicago Cubs, Montgomery (Md.) Parks District and Military Officers Association of America.

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