No Love Lost in Airport Ad Battle

DALLAS Today’s introduction of a Senate bill to lift flight restrictions on Dallas Love Field Airport provides a focal point for a Southwest Airlines’ campaign that blends humor with cause marketing.

Packaging its pitch around the tagline “Set Love free,” Southwest is using billboards, a TV spot and a dedicated Web site to win repeal of the 26-year-old Wright Amendment that limits flights from Love Field to cities in Texas and nearby states. The ad campaign, whose spending was not disclosed, was created by Omnicom Group’s GSD&M in Austin, Texas.

Headquartered at Love Field, Southwest fought regulators for years to use the airport after other major carriers moved to the new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in 1974. Now, Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines and officials at DFWIA fear that an unrestricted Love Field would do serious economic damage to DFWIA, the world’s third busiest airport.

Unlike Southwest, however, American is relying on lobbying and public relations rather than advertising to keep the Wright Amendment in place, an airline spokesman said.

“It’s not the simple story that Southwest would like you to believe,” said American spokesman Roger Frizzell. “It’s an extremely complicated message that may not be carried best by advertising.”

So far, Southwest has limited its advertising to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, claiming that lifting the amendment named for former U.S. House Majority Leader Jim Wright of Fort Worth would increase passengers’ freedom to fly.

One of four billboards near Love Field reads: “The Wright Amendment needs to make a departure.” The 30-second TV spot showing a map with routes extending from Love Field to cities such as Los Angeles and Orlando, Fla., airs during broadcasts of Texas Rangers baseball games.

The Web site is designed to provide a call to action from the public at critical junctures in the legislative process, according to the airline.

Senators John Ensign, R-Nev., John McCain, R-Ariz., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., sponsored the Senate bill introduced today. The bill follows a House measure introduced earlier.

“The Wright Amendment, restricting access to Southwest Airlines’ low fares at Dallas Love Field, is truly a national issue,” said Southwest co-founder Herb Kelleher. “The introduction of the Senate Bill is a major step forward in bringing the freedom to fly to 3.7 million more Americans per year.”