Dallas City Manager Promises Love Field Gate Announcement This Week

The decision on which air carrier will get two open gates at Dallas Love Field will come by the end of the week, according to Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez who is making the call.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines is competing with Virgin America Airlines for those gates.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly led a Wednesday Dallas City Hall rally with a crowd of his employees supporting his company's request.

"We're the second-largest carrier in the market, but we are a distant second to American and we're in the best position to add more flights and reduce fares so more people afford to fly," Kelly said.

Virgin America Airlines CEO David Cush was also at City Hall Wednesday to lobby city officials about his company's request for the gates.

"Southwest has 16 gates at the airport so they have the capability of serving those cities that they said they would only do with those two gates," Cush said.

American Airlines had been leasing the two gates coming open now but it was forced to give them up in a deal with the U.S. Justice Department to end a consumer protection lawsuit over American's merger with US Airways.

The U.S. Justice Department told Gonzalez to give the gates to Virgin America Airlines in a letter this week and another one earlier this year, but a city consultant recommended Southwest.

"I will work to make sure everybody hears about it about the same time," Gonzalez said about his pending decision.

His promise came at a Dallas City Council briefing on the gates where the advice from council members made it difficult to call a winner in the fight.

"Certainly going forward, I don't want to anger the Department of Justice," Councilman Scott Griggs said.

Other members said the city should choose base on it's own priorities.

"We put in the matters of past experience of carriers. We put in the matter of financial viability," said Council Member Vonciel Hill.

Love Field is limited to just 20 gates in the deal that will remove long haul flight restrictions on the airport in October. 

Southwest helped Dallas bankroll the new Love Field terminal built in preparation for increased traffic expected with the new non-stop flights.

Delta has been leasing the two gates in play now from American and Delta also asked the City of Dallas to be permitted to keep using them but the Justice Department letter rejected Delta and Southwest.

Mayor Mike Rawlings said he would like to allow all carriers that wish to serve Love Field.

"We should be doing high fives," Rawlings said. "Congratulations to the City of Dallas, we're growing. We've got hot properties.

A new YouTube video featuring Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson was posted online Wednesday in which Branson is seen writing a "love letter" to Love Field.

Cush would not say Wednesday what Virgin might do if it lose the fight for the gates.

"We are highly confident we will get the gates," Cush said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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