UPDATE May 12: Virgin America gets the Love Field gates. Unclear why it took the Dallas City Manager so long to make it official.
May 7: The controversy over which airline should get two open gates Dallas’ Love Field (DAL) may be over, at least if a letter from the Justice Department is any indication. It leaves no doubt the gates should go to Virgin America, in the interests of fostering “meaningful competition.”
The Battle for Love Field
Brief background: American Airlines was forced to give up these gates at downtown-close Love Field – the longtime home of Southwest Airlines – in order to get the Justice Department’s approval for its merger with US Airways.
It initially appeared that Virgin America would get the gates and in fact Virgin held a celebration at the airport to announce its new Love Field routes and began selling tickets. Then snags developed as some on the Dallas City Council appeared to balk even as a study was released recommending Southwest get the two gates despite the fact that it already controls 16 of 20 Love gates.
Letter to Dallas: Give it to Virgin
However, a new letter released by the Justice Department Antitrust Division to the Dallas City Attorney and City Manager would seem to settle the matter:
“We have concluded that divestiture to Virgin America, which has no existing presence at Love Field and will introduce a new competitor at that airport, accomplishes the goal of [greater competition].” —Letter from Justice Department, May 5, 2014
Was Branson a Factor?
The energetic founder of the vast Virgin empire came to Dallas this week to rally support for Virgin America’s presence at Love Field but it is unclear what (if any) effect Richard Branson’s crowd-surfing charm offensive had on the feds. It was entertaining, though.