Dallas Has Not Made a Decision on 2 Love Field Gates

Dallas city officials late Friday said a decision has not yet been reached about what carrier would receive two open gates at Dallas Love Field Airport.

City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said Wednesday that he expected to decide by the end of the week, but the city statement Friday night said the decision had not been made.

In an email, Gonzalez said he was still consulting with lawyers.

The campaign waged by Virgin America Airlines to launch service at those gates resembles past marketing by Southwest Airlines, which is also seeking the extra gates.

“It’s almost as if they wrote their own playbook using everything Southwest did,” said David Hadeler, a professor at Southern Methodist University’s Temerlin Advertising Institute.

Southwest Airlines started in 1971 as a small carrier with just three planes and fought for market share against larger competitors. They used campaigns focused on love for employees and passengers.

Virgin America founder Sir Richard Branson is the front man for the Virgin campaign, much as former Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher once led Southwest's marketing.

Branson went crowd surfing at a Dallas restaurant this week and was seen in a Virgin YouTube video writing a “Love Letter to Love Field” for the opportunity to compete there.

“What they’ve done is they’ve taken the same approach that Southwest used decades ago, and they’ve turned it around and used it in their own favor. And what’s brilliant about it is Southwest can’t say that’s not a valid argument because it’s the same exact argument Southwest used,” said Hadeler, who is also an executive at SKSW Advertising in Dallas.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines already has leases on 16 of the 20 Love Field gates to be open by October.

Southwest said it is still the little guy compared to American at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and using 18 Love Field gates would provide consumers with more American competition.

The two Love Field gates are currently leased to American, which has agreed to surrender them to settle a lawsuit with the federal government over the US Airways merger.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly appeared at a city meeting about the issue on Wednesay. Kelly said it will be an excellent year for the company regardless of whether it gets these two gates because of the October end of long haul flight restrictions at Love Field.

“Nothing is going to dampen our enthusiasm for what is going to be a great 2014,” Kelly said.  

The United States Justice Department told Dallas the gates should go to Virgin to provide Love Field competition with Southwest, but a consultant for the city recommended that Southwest get the gates.

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