The federal government approved an application from Legend Airlines Inc. on Tuesday, allowing it to operate two round-trip flights between Dallas Love Field and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
The Dallas-based start-up airline declined to say when it would begin this service.
Until this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation tightly controlled the right to fly to and from the Chicago airport by limiting takeoff and landing rights. These restrictions are gradually being lifted and will be eliminated by July 1, 2002.
If Legend begins flights to O'Hare, competition between the carrier and American Airlines Inc. will intensify. American currently offers five daily flights to O'Hare, one of its four hub airports, from Love Field. The two carriers now compete head-to-head only on the Love Field-Los Angeles route.
Legend and Fort Worth-based American are competing for high-paying business travelers, the industry's most profitable customers. Both airlines offer all-first-class service for both full-fare and discount prices from the Dallas airport.
"We are used to competing everywhere," said American spokesman Al Becker when told of the four slots Legend had been granted.
Five other carriers - America West, National Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, Mesa Airlines and Spirit Airlines - also received slots at Chicago O'Hare, the nation's second-busiest airport.
Later this year, Legend plans to add two cities to the three it currently serves. Besides Los Angeles, Legend flies to Las Vegas and Washington Dulles International Airport.
The takeoff and landing slots "are a scratch in the surface," said T. Allan McArtor, Legend's chief executive and president. "Chicago is a big market."
Legend and American, among others, are also applying for some of the 24 new takeoff and landing slots being added at Reagan Washington National Airport.
There are four slot-controlled airports in the nation.
While Legend is proposing flying from Love Field to Reagan National, American would use the slots to fly two nonstop daily round-trip flights between Washington and Los Angeles.
It already flies to Reagan National from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
A decision about who gets the new slots at Reagan National will be announced in July, said Transportation Department spokesman Bill Mosley.