Love Field Gates Still Up in the Air

The battle for the last two of 20 Love Field gates remained up in the air Monday evening after city officials invited people to a Monday afternoon meeting on the issue last week.

Virgin America Airlines began selling tickets Friday for fall flights from those gates, claiming it has a deal with American Airlines, which must give the gates up to satisfy the U.S. Justice Department in American's merger with US Airways.

Monday, the Dallas City Council Transportation Committee heard a briefing about the gates and a consultant's recommendation that Southwest Airlines get the gates.

"It’s preposterous to think that it’s good public policy to give them even more of a monopoly of 18 gates," said Virgin America CEO David Cush.

Delta Air Lines wants the gates too and representatives of Delta and Virgin America attended the committee meeting prepared to plead their cases to city officials.

Delta executive Holden Shannon said Dallas should leave the gates available for common use by many carriers.

"There isn’t a large airport out there that doesn’t operate common use gates and it may be even more important to have them when you only have 20 gates," he said.

Delta has been serving Love Field and could get squeezed out if the gates are reassigned to Virgin America.

Transportation Committee Chairwoman Vonciel Hill refused to hear from any speakers at the meeting and immediately called a closed door executive session to consult with city attorneys after the findings in the public briefing were heard.

When the executive session ended, the committee members made no comments and decided to send the issue forward for the full city council to review.

Virgin America claims American's lease provides for granting subleases and it should be a simple approval by the city manager.

"The city has approved this type of transfer twice in the past, including most recently to Delta. So this is a pretty routine matter in our opinion," Cush said.

Speaking at a Trinity River clean up project sponsored by his airline, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly agreed with the consultant's conclusion that the public would be better served if Southwest took over the gates.

"The only way we can grow is to grow at Love Field. All other airlines have the opportunity to grow at DFW Airport," Kelly said. "By us growing we’ll add more flights, more service, better competition and that’s just better for the community."

Love Field is limited to 20 gates under the terms of a settlement approved years ago to lift long haul flight restrictions there in October.

Southwest helped the city build a new Love Field Terminal to prepare for the expansion of nonstop service at the airport but Delta and Virgin America insist they should be allowed to benefit from the new opportunities at Love Field too.

"We see no reason why the City of Dallas should pick winners and losers. We have an ongoing quest to broaden competition," Delta's Shannon said.

It was unclear Monday afternoon when another city meeting on the issue would be scheduled.

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