|Commenced operations||April 5, 2000|
|Company slogan||Fly a Legend|
|Headquarters||Dallas Love Field|
|Key people||T. Allan McArtor|
Legend Airlines was an airline headquartered at Dallas Love Field, Dallas, Texas, United States. Legend operated nonstop flights from its Love Field hub to Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York City, the first carrier to fly from Love Field to destinations beyond the Wright Amendment five-state region after the opening of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in 1974. Legend's jet airliners were limited to 56 passenger seats by the Wright Amendment, so the aircraft were outfitted in a spacious all-business class layout, aiming at the lucrative business travel market.
Legend's initial flights were substantially delayed by lobbying to persuade Congress to modify the Wright Amendment, court battles instigated by American Airlines and the City of Fort Worth, and by difficulties obtaining operational approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Flights began in April 2000, but were suspended indefinitely in December 2000 due to mounting losses, with the airline filing for bankruptcy. Efforts to secure additional financing and restart flights came to naught; the airline surrendered its operating certificate and was liquidated in mid-2001.
The airline's private Love Field terminal—which was independently owned and leased to the carrier—was condemned under eminent domain and the gates razed after the 2006 Wright Amendment repeal imposed a 20-gate cap at the airport; these events triggered a series of lawsuits that were not fully settled until 2016.
By the early 1960s, Love Field was reaching the limits of its capacity, and efforts to share Greater Southwest International Airport (GSW) in Ft. Worth had proven unsuccessful; the situation was inefficient, and in 1964, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) ordered Dallas and Fort Worth to establish a new joint regional airport. The cities and airlines ultimately agreed, signing a 1968 bond ordinance obligating all existing carriers to move to the new regional airport and prohibiting operation of competing municipal airports; the effort culminated in the demolition of GSW, the 1974 opening of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), the closure of Love Field to certified air carriers, and a corresponding effort to redevelop Love for general aviation.
Southwest Airlines was founded after the 1968 bond ordinance; it was not a party to the agreement and felt that its business model would be affected by the long drive to the new airport. Dallas and Ft. Worth sued Southwest but were unsuccessful in dislodging the airline from Love Field. After the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, Southwest announced plans to begin interstate service in 1979, angering powerful DFW backers. Acting on their behalf, Jim Wright, member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving Fort Worth, sponsored and helped pass an amendment to the International Air Transportation Act of 1979 in Congress that restricted passenger service out of Love Field in the following ways:
- Service using larger mainline airliners could be provided from Love Field only to airports within Texas or to four neighboring U.S. states: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
- Airlines could not offer connecting flights, through service on another airline, or through ticketing beyond the five-state region.
- Flights to other states were allowed only on aircraft with 56 seats or fewer, in an attempt to prohibit mainline passenger service outside of the five-state region.
By the mid 1990s, Southwest Airlines' business within the five-state region had burgeoned, but no carrier had seriously attempted to exploit the 56-seat exemption. Factions in Dallas had begun to view the Wright Amendment as anti-competitive and harmful to local business interests, but its restrictions were backed by the city of Ft. Worth and American Airlines to protect DFW Airport, and by local property owners who wanted to reduce jet noise and street traffic around Love Field. Attempts to modify the restrictions had become mired in lawsuits and controversy.
Founding and early history
Legend Airlines was the brainchild of T. Allan McArtor, former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator, Federal Express executive and a U.S. Air Force pilot who had been a member of the Air Force precision flying team, the Thunderbirds. McArtor served as airline's President and CEO.
In 1996, Dallas aviation company and Legend partner Dalfort Aviation announced that Legend would fly from Love Field using jets with 56 seats—the maximum number allowed for long-haul flights under Wright. Dalfort would refurbish older McDonnell Douglas DC-9s or Boeing 727s—aircraft that normally carried 90 or more passengers—with an all-first class configuration and the excess space used for cargo. McArtor and Dalfort CEO Bruce Leadbetter claimed that buying new regional jets with 56 or fewer seats was too expensive and would not provide Dalfort with much-needed overhaul business. However, the United States Department of Transportation general counsel ruled in September 1996 that the 56-seat restriction applied to the "designed capacity" of an airliner rather than to the number of seats actually installed, prompting Legend to seek a change in the law; Texas Rep. Joe Barton was soon calling for the U.S. House to address of the 56-seat requirement.
By July 1997, McArtor had enlisted the help of Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, who proposed to change the Wright restrictions to allow Legend to start service using the refurbished planes. On 7 October 1997, despite fierce opposition from the Texas congressional delegation, Shelby's efforts culminated in the passage of a United States Senate funding bill that included his amendment to allow nationwide flights using aircraft reconfigured with 56 seats and to add three new states to the Wright region. On 9 October 1997, the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved the transportation funding bill containing the Shelby Amendment, with President Bill Clinton expected to promptly sign it into law.
Within a month, Ft. Worth was suing Legend and the city of Dallas, arguing for upholding the 1968 DFW bond agreement; Dallas and Legend argued that it could no longer be enforced. American Airlines joined Ft. Worth in suing Dallas to stop the Shelby Amendment from taking effect, and McArtor accused American of having quietly orchestrated the entire campaign to block Legend. By February 1998, Southwest Airlines joined the Dallas lawsuit at the behest of Legend.
McArtor argued that Ft. Worth was also violating the bond agreement by allowing Mesa Airlines and FedEx Express to operate from Meacham Field and the recently-constructed Fort Worth Alliance Airport respectively. In October 1998, Legend sued Ft. Worth, accusing the city of a "double standard" in its simultaneous support for Alliance and opposition to expansion at Love. However, State District Judge Bob McCoy dismissed the suit later that month on the grounds that Legend was not a party to the 1968 DFW bond agreement and thus lacked standing to sue.
On 5 April 2000, after further legal battles against Ft. Worth and American Airlines and delays in gaining operating approval from the FAA, Legend began the first long-haul service from Love Field since 1974 with a flight to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). Legend Airlines soon operated nonstop service to IAD, Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York City was then added as a fourth destination.
Despite continuing to argue in court that long-haul service from Love Field should be blocked, American Airlines, in a competitive move, reconfigured several of its Fokker 100 jets with 56 seats in a similar business class-like configuration and operated nonstop service from Love Field starting on 1 May 2000 to Chicago O'Hare Airport (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX) and LaGuardia (LGA).
On 29 June 2000, the United States Supreme Court declined to review a federal appeals court decision allowing long-haul flights from Love, effectively ending the last attempt by Ft. Worth, the D/FW Airport Board, and American Airlines to stop Legend in the courts.
Legend spent more than most new airlines prior to starting flights; figures range from $21 million to $29 million, its aircraft had languished on the ground for 3 years. Although its flights to New York and Washington averaged almost two-thirds capacity, the airline lost $25 million during its first six months of operation, being afflicted by high start-up costs, high fuel costs, and intense competition from other airlines.
Legend suspended flights indefinitely on 3 December 2000 after failing to secure additional financing, and announced that it would be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In early 2001, Legend laid off all of its Dallas employees, surrendered its FAA operating certificate, and announced that it would enter Chapter 7 liquidation. In May, McArtor left Legend to head the North American unit of Airbus, and the airline's physical assets were auctioned in June 2001, including an estimated $1 million in DC-9 spares, but not the aircraft themselves, which were leased. By late 2002, two of the airline's former DC-9s were being operated by Southeast Airlines, one had been purchased by the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team, and the other four had been mothballed in Kingman, Arizona awaiting new buyers.
In 2016, journalist Robert Wilonsky described the airline's downfall as the result of a conspiracy by American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, the D/FW Airport Board, and the cities of Dallas and Ft. Worth to "break Legend before it ever got off the ground."
Despite its failure to establish a viable aviation business, industry observers credited Legend Airlines with engineering the first substantive change to the controversial Wright Amendment and with introducing competition to Southwest Airlines at Love Field; when Legend ceased operation, American, Continental Express, and Delta Connection affiliate Atlantic Southeast Airlines had all begun operating from the airport to compete with the startup carrier. Legend's activities prompted other aviation interests to seriously consider using regional jets on long-haul flights from Love Field and to more openly back changes to the Wright Amendment, ideas that seemed infeasible beforehand; the Wright Amendment region was subsequently expanded again in 2005, and the law was partially repealed in 2006 and fully repealed in 2014.
Aiming for the lucrative full-fare business travel market, Legend Airlines provided a high level of service, with all seats in a business class configuration. Two wide seats were installed on each side of the generous center aisle (known as a 2-2 arrangement), and legroom was ample due to the removal of several entire rows of seats from its McDonnell Douglas DC-9 airliners, which usually carried 100 or more passengers in a 2-3 arrangement. Fresh flowers adorned aircraft interiors and the executive terminal at Love Field; the latter was set up so passengers could exit their aircraft and board a taxi in less than a minute. Legend was the first airline to offer live in-flight television on seat-back monitors; the DirecTV service was soon offered by JetBlue as well, but Legend offered it for free rather than charging travelers $5 to use it. Seats were also equipped with an AT&T Airfones and laptop computer charging ports; the lavish meals, described as "celebrity-chef crafted", were commissioned from several Dallas-area chefs and were served on real china with silverware, fresh fruit, and individual pats of real butter, rather than the plastic trays, plastic utensils, and packaged condiments and fruit generally offered by other carriers. Meals came with a ribbon-tied box of chocolate truffles and wines selected to complement the food. All of these amenities were offered for fares comparable to rival airlines' coach-class tickets.
Legend operated a separate executive passenger terminal at 7777 Lemmon Avenue and Lovers Lane and did not use the primary passenger terminal at Love Field; the Legend terminal cost $20 million to construct and reflected the airline's upscale image, with leather seats, fresh flowers, and gates designed to resemble private executive clubs.
The complex was built by and leased from a private investment group loosely affiliated with Legend and Dalfort Aviation but not directly controlled by either company. Upon Legend's collapse, the owners immediately sought new tenants, subleasing one gate to Atlantic Southeast Airlines and entering into talks with American and Continental Express, who were then sharing the only two gates in the main terminal that were not controlled by Southwest Airlines. Despite the owner's efforts, the gates were vacant by the summer of 2002, although some office space had been leased to local businesses and parking garage space was being leased to nearby car dealerships to store inventory.
In late 2005, the owners were publicly backing an effort to repeal the Wright Amendment, hoping to boost the lease value of the still-vacant gates; however, Dallas mayor Laura Miller was openly campaigning for the structure to be torn down. In October 2006, President George W. Bush signed a law partially repealing the Wright Amendment and imposing a 20-gate cap at Love Field, and the Dallas City Council approved using eminent domain to seize and raze the terminal. This effectively ended negotiations to sell the facility to Pinnacle Airlines, and the gates were subsequently condemned by the federal government and torn down, with the owners receiving nothing in return.
The owners attempted to challenge the Wright Amendment repeal on antitrust grounds but the suit was thrown out by the federal courts in late 2007. However, the owners filed another suit in 2008 accusing the federal government of having condemned the structure without just compensation, and in April 2016, Federal Claims Judge Margaret M. Sweeney sided with owners Love Terminal Partners and Virginia Aerospace, ordering the government to pay them $133 million plus interest for having destroyed the property's economic value.
- McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 - seven (7) aircraft in fleet (federal registrations N920LG through N926LG), all obtained secondhand from other airlines and configured with 56 seats
Legend Airlines served the following destinations during its existence:
- Dallas, Texas: Love Field (DAL) - airline headquarters and hub
- Las Vegas, Nevada: McCarran International Airport (LAS)
- Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- New York City, New York: LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
- Washington, D.C.: Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
- "Legend Airlines Fleet Details and History". www.planespotters.net. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
- Fairbank, Katy (29 September 2002). "Follow-Up File". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- "Legend Airlines…non-stop non-coach." Legend Airlines. Retrieved on February 16, 2009.
- Reed, Dan (6 March 2001). "Legend leaves lasting legacy at Love Field". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas.
- "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 21–27, 2000. 91.
- Reed, Dan (6 April 2000). "Legend takes off from Love Field after 4-year legal fight - Passengers enthusiastic about resuming commercial long-haul - service". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas.
- Cooper, William (10 May 1992). "Love Field controversy should now be shelved forever". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Allen 1990, pp. 1013-1015.
- Flynn, Keli (15 June 2010). "Southwest Airines". Handbook of Texas. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
- T. Allan McArtor, President & CEO. "2000 Legend Airlines "Thank You For Joining Legend Airlines Travel Rewards Program" letter". departedflights.com.
- Maxon, Terry; Dodge, Robert (21 November 1996). "Dalfort planning to start up Love Field airline next year". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Zimmerman, Ann (16 October 1997). "The (W)right to Fly - How little Legend Airlines beat mammoth American at its own game". Dallas Observer. Dallas, Texas.
- Whittle, Richard (17 August 1997). "LITTLE AIRLINE, BIG BRAWL - Dallas start-up Legend Air has collected some powerful allies -- and foes -- in its fight to fly out of Love Field". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Hutcheson, Ron (8 October 1997). "Wright Amendment weakened Measure would ease limits at Love Field". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas.
- Towle, Michael D. (10 October 1997). "Congress passes bill altering Wright law". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas.
- Smith, Jack Z.; Reed, Dan (11 October 1997). "Dalfort planning to start up Love Field airline next year". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas.
- Baker, Max B. (7 November 1997). "Dallas files countersuit over airport". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas.
- Baker, Max B.; Reed, Dan (8 November 1997). "American asks to join lawsuit over Love Field". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas.
"I'm pleased that the charade is over and that American's obvious involvement is quite visible," said Alan McArtor, president of Legend Airlines. McArtor and others have accused American of orchestrating Fort Worth's opposition to Legend's plans.
- Baker, Max B. (13 February 1998). "Southwest now in lawsuit Petition draws Dallas airline into Love Field fray". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas.
- Baker, Max B. (2 October 1998). "Legend Airlines sues Fort Worth - City accused of double standard". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas.
- Hunt, Dianna (30 October 1998). "Judge dismisses claims over Alliance Aiport Legend can't countersue FW in Love battle". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- http://www.departedflights.com, April 5, 2000 Legend Airlines system timetable
- "Sept. 6, 2000 Legend Airlines route map". departedflights.com.
- http://www.departedflights.com, July 2, 2001 American Airlines system timetable
- Yung, Katherine (2 May 2000). "In the air again - American's long-haul luxury flights take off from Love Field". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Larson, Krista; Yung, Katherine (30 June 2000). "Supreme Court puts Love Field issue to rest - Foes of expanded service accept defeat". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Yung, Katherine (3 December 2000). "Legend shuts down after cash troubles - Airline seeks new sources of financing". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Rosenwein, Rifka (August 2001). "Airline is doomed when rival 'goes nuclear.'". Inc. New York City.
- Reed, Dan (8 December 2000). "Legend's legacy to Love - The airline that challenged limitations at Love Field paved the - way for other long-haul carriers at the Dallas airport". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas.
"Legally speaking, Legend let the genie out of the bottle at Love Field," said Jon Ash, a principal at Global Aviation Associates, a Washington, D.C., aviation consulting firm that advised the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Board during the legal fight to keep Legend from testing the limits of the Wright Amendment at Love. "Once Legend got the right to do what it wanted, it was inevitable that other carriers would move some service to Love Field and fly limited-capacity long-haul routes from there, too," Ash said. He has maintained that even if Legend fails, its competitors will remain at Love. "They're there for good," he said
- Yung, Katherine (23 January 2001). "Legend's financing falls through again - 291 laid off; CEO says he won't give up". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Maxon, Terry (31 May 2001). "Ex-Legend CEO will join Airbus - He will be chairman of N. American unit". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Horner, Kim (8 June 2001). "Preparing for final departure - Legend to auction memorabilia, from first class to more mundane". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Wilonsky, Robert (29 July 2016). "The legend of Legend Airlines lives on in judge's $133 million ruling against feds". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
The federal government condemned the building in 2006 without giving them so much as a bag of peanuts.
- Donnelly, Sally B. (1 May 2000). "Flying Sybaritic Skies". Time. Vol. 155 no. 18. New York City. p. 52.
- Goetzl, David (1 May 2000). "Airlines and Airwaves". Advertising Age. Vol. 71 no. 19. New York City. pp. 18–20.
- Zimmerman, Ann (16 October 1997). "Loaded for take-off - Legend Airlines plans to chart a different course from the average meal-in-a-sack airline". Dallas Observer. Dallas, Texas.
- Maxon, Terry; Fairbank, Katy (14 July 2002). "FOLLOW-UP FILE Whatever happened to ...". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Case, Brendan M. (1 November 2005). "Poll results back Wright repeal - American criticizes survey commissioned by Love Field firm". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.
- Levinthal, Dave (19 October 2006). "Council OKs pursuit of Legend terminal - Dallas: Action follows Wright changes; owner suing to save building". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas.