Delta Accused of “Trespass” in New Love Field Legal Battle

A new battle for gate space at Dallas Love Field is brewing this week with a Wednesday deadline from a federal court judge for lawsuit replies.

The city of Dallas filed the lawsuit last week asking the court to decide which carrier should get two disputed gates at the airport.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines claims Delta will "trespass" if it continues to use the gates after July 7. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation has told the city it must make room for Delta at Love Field since the carrier is already operating there.

Both airlines have been selling tickets assuming they will have that same gate space.

"It's absolutely a dilemma for the city," said aviation attorney Kent Krause, who has been watching Love Field legal battles for years. "There's just not enough room at Love Field to deal with the demand."

The settlement approved by the U.S. Congress to end Wright Amendment restrictions on Love Field non-stop flights last year also capped the airport at 20 gates.

Krause said two different branches of the federal government are giving the city two different orders with two airlines taking sides.

"As somebody who is a consumer of airline products, it certainly seems to me we all benefit from more competition, so allowing more airlines to have access to Love Field certainly would be beneficial, I think, to the consumer," Krause said.

Rick Seany, with, said consumers did see some fare reduction from competition when additional non-stop flights became available at Love Field last fall, but it has been limited recently by strong demand for tickets.

"Airlines tend to bounce those fares back higher depending on what kind of demand they have, and right now demand is really good for airlines, especially for the summertime travel," Seany said.

Rivalry between carriers can also be good for consumers, but Seany said in this Love Field case some passengers could be grounded.

"Usually when they squabble, they get upset with each other and they lower prices. So we like squabbling. The only problem here with the Love Field issues is they both sold tickets for the same thing," Seany said.

Many Love Field passengers are loyal to their carriers.

Jordan Oliver and her mom, Carmell, checked several bags on Southwest Airlines Monday for a trip to California.

"Free bags and stuff: I like all their perks," Jordan Oliver said. "I don't like flying Delta that much."

Passenger Sandy Watson said Southwest deserves the opportunity to add more nonstop destinations from Love Field.

"I'm loyal to Southwest, so I say give it to Southwest," Watson said.

Passenger Tom Curtis is a regular passenger on Delta's five daily flights to Atlanta.

"I love Southwest, but I'm a Delta guy flying to the East Coast," Curtis said. "Definitely need to keep Delta here."

Passenger Penny Austin from Lexington, Ky., was shocked to hear Delta could be forced to leave Love Field.

"Well that's horrible," she said. "I have great experience with Delta so I hope they don't do that. And Southwest doesn't fly to Lexington."

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade ordered nine parties in the federal lawsuit to submit replies by Wednesday.

Krause expects appeals of whatever this judge decides in the new Love Field legal battle.

"This is not going to end quickly or cleanly, I don't think, for anybody," he said.

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