MIAMI — On Friday afternoon, Southwest Airlines announced that it will gain control of two more gates at Dallas Love Field and launch nine new nonstop destinations form the airport later this year.

With this announcement, it would appear that the Dallas Love Field soap opera is nearing its end. It’s been a big battle between Delta, Southwest, United, and Virign America to grow their presence at Love Field, but for Delta, the last few months has all been focused on continuing to serve the airport.

(Credits: Paul Thomsonp)
(Credits: Paul Thomsonp)

Some Background

In order for American and US Airways to merge, the DOJ explained that the airline would need to make several cuts, including giving up the two gates it leased out at Dallas Love Field.

Once this was announced, Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America all expressed interest in the two gates while United hoped to be able to use a second gate to add service to Newark. Meanwhile, the city hired a company to take a look into which airline would be the best for the city. 

Additionally, Delta and Southwest went to great lengths trying to convince the city to select them, including Delta who placed several new flights in its reservation system.

(Credits:  Ian Petchenik)
(Credits: Ian Petchenik)

The Winner

Virgin America made a big entrance in April when it held a press conference at one of the FBOs where CEO David Cush announced that the carrier would begin to selling tickets from its presumed Dallas Love Field focus city on Friday to Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia, San Francisco, and Washington DC. The flights begin in October 2014.

Despire the big entrance, the city remained quiet as to who would get the gates, but a few weeks later, the City of Dallas officially announced that Virgin America would be able to sublease the two gates that American gave up in a deal with the DOJ to merge. 

For the most part, the next few months were pretty quiet while Southwest continued to advertise that the Wright Amendment would expire on October 13, 2014.

(Credits: Sam Wozniak)
(Credits: Sam Wozniak)

Twist in Events

At the end of September, United Airlines adjusted its schedule by increasing frequency and turn times on its flights between Houston and Love Field so it would be able to use two of the gates just for its operations. This left Southwest with 16 gates, Virgin with two, and United with the other two. Now, there would be no room for Delta, unless it could sign a deal with one of the other tenants. It is important to point out that Dallas Love Field is limited to only 20 gates under some restrictions as part of lifting the Wright Amendment.

Shortly after United adjusted its schedule, the City of Dallas told Delta Air Lines that it would no longer be able to serve Dallas Love Field effective October 13, 2014 as there would not be enough gate space. The airline wrote an open letter saying it would sue the city if they did not accommodate their continued presence at the airport in accordance with the terms of federal legislation and previous written promises from the airport authority and the mayor, but luckily days before it would have to depart Love Field for the final time, the airline was able to secure a few gate slots at a Southwest gate.


Wright Amendment is Lifted

When October 13, 2014 finally arrived, Southwest began flying its new post Wright Amendment flights and Virign America inaugurated Love Field flights. It was also a big day for Delta too; it operated its final CRJ-200 flight between Atlanta and Love Field and began upgrading all of its flights to 717s.

Although, Delta’s days at Love Field were still numbered as the lease would only take them until January 2015.

As 2014 ended, the City of Dallas, Delta, Southwest, and United remained silent as to what would happen with Delta’s leased gate slots, but luckily for Delta, United agreed in early January to lease out some slots at its gates to Delta for six months, after United did not end up increasing frequency to 12 times a day.

Another Twist in Events

In an odd twist of events within the last few days, United has thrown in the towel and will sublease its two gates to Southwest Airlines, but United will continue using the gates until March 16.

Southwest Airlines has confirmed that it will continue the current accommodation–five gate slots, including an overnight one–that United made for Delta, which runs through July 6. Meanwhile, Delta said that it is continuing to work with all parties to gain a permanent spot at Love Field.


Southwest’s New Plan

Southwest says it will offer daily nonstop flights to nine new cities from Dallas, including MemphisMilwaukee, and Seattle, starting this April. It will also increase the number of nonstop flights to recently introduced destinations added after the Wright Amendment was lifted.

“Customer demand for our new, convenient long-haul nonstop service from Love Field has been even stronger than we anticipated, and we are excited now to have the opportunity to offer more flights to more cities from Dallas,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer.  

Details on numbers of flights as well as the full list of the cities and fares will be announced soon.

(Credits: Paul Thomsonp)
(Credits: Paul Thomsonp)

The Future Still a Bit Unclear

Details on numbers of flights as well as the full list of the cities and fares Southwest plans to launch from Love Field will be announced soon.

Meanwhile, Delta is working with all of the parties at Love Field to gain a permanent spot at the airport, but if it is unable to, it will have to stop flying in and out of Love Field this July.

While United prepares to end its Love Field operations, it plans to focus on strengthening its Houston and DFW operations.