Proposed Love Field concession contracts are biased and may cheat taxpayers, say Dallas' mayor and a vendor that wants airport business.
Dallas Love Field's $519 million terminal renovation will be completed in 2014, the same year long-haul flights will be permitted from the airport. The airport expects an increase in travelers, and the renovated terminal will cater to them with improved airport restaurants and stores.
But some are criticizing plans that call for granting about two-thirds of the new space to the current vendors.
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said all the new terminal concessions should be subject to competitive bids.
“If we don’t bid this out, then I don’t think we show the transparency that we need, and I think there’s real concerns that we have the best deal for our taxpayers,” Leppert said.
Supporters of the plan say the vendors have earned their place at the airport by surviving a severe business decline after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks without city subsidies.
Ken Carter, a spokesman for one of the vendors, said Love Field concessions consistently rank high in customer service, while paying high rent compared to other airports of similar size.
Fred Conwright, who co-owns a Fair Park area restaurant called Two Ponders and operates food and merchandise concessions at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, said Dallas could make a better deal.
“They’re going to give away millions of dollars in this plan,” Conwright said. “I can’t understand that.”
Conwright said Love Field should be open to new competitors instead of leaving the old ones in place without competition.
“Why is it that this is the only airport in the country that you feel like you owe everybody?” Conwright said. “Everybody suffered since 9/11.”
The city plan calls for opening about one third of the terminal concession space to new bidders in the future, but the mayor said that will be too late to give them a fair chance.
“The best locations will be gone," Leppert said. "Businesses will have a year to three years head start. We can’t be in the position of trying to handicap everything. I simply don’t think that’s right.”
The Dallas City Council Transportation Committee endorsed the plan in February.
The concession contracts are on Wednesday’s agenda for approval by the full Dallas City Council.