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Virgin America Goes After Dallas Love Gates as Competition Heats Up

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Virgin America Goes After Dallas Love Gates as Competition Heats Up

Virgin America Goes After Dallas Love Gates as Competition Heats Up
March 05
12:47 2014

MIAMI — Virgin America announced intentions to turn Dallas Love Field into a focus city on Wednesday. The carrier says it will add eighteen departures from the city daily starting in October 2014. There is one minor problem, however: It doesn’t own any gates at the airport.

At least not yet. The carrier is seeking to win control of two gates at the coveted downtown Dallas airport. The gates are currently owned by American, but thanks to the DOJ merger settlement, the carrier is being forced to give them up.

Should Virgin be successful four cities would see service in 2014 following the expiration of the Wright Amendment’s travel restrictions. Unsurprisingly, the first two destinations will be the carrier’s current hubs of Los Angeles LAX and San Francisco. Each would receive three flights per day at first, going to four in 2015. The other two are recently acquired New York LaGuardia, and Washington Reagan (DCA), both of which would see four roundtrips per day. Chicago O’Hare will be added in “early 2015”, with two flights per day.

Virgin only recently acquired the gates and slots in New York LaGuardia and DCA. Both were a product of the AA/US merger settlement with the DOJ that the airline is trying to capitalize on in Dallas.

The new flights to Chicago, New York, and Washington DC represent a shift away from west coast-centric hub and spoke service. Almost every existing flight for the carrier operates either into or out of its two California hubs, the lone exception being a flight from New York JFK to Las Vegas.

The niche carrier already maintains a presence in the Big D via Dallas DFW Airport, fifteen miles away. It began serving LAX and San Francisco from the city in 2010. If it is awarded the Love Field gates it would abandon its operations at DFW. Its posh and polished product and vibe would present a unique contrast to the existing carriers at Love, including populist Southwest and legacy carriers such as Delta.

Not the only hat in the ring…


 

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(Credits; Paul Thompson)

Virgin is not the only carrier pre-emptively claiming the two gates. Delta announced a planned “expansion” of services at the airport in November, 2013. Like Virgin, it would add eighteen nonstop flights to five destinations including Detroit (x3), New York LaGuardia (x5), Los Angeles (x5), and Minneapolis-St. Paul (x3). All would be operated by regional carriers.

Delta would also add additional service to Atlanta up to six flights, all operated by mainline Boeing 717 aircraft. In a move it may later regret, it began selling tickets for the flights in December. The carrier has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Southwest Airlines, which has been holed up at Love Field since the late 1980s thanks to Wright Amendment restrictions, owns the lion’s share of the gates presently available at Love Field: sixteen out of twenty. That is not stopping it from trying to make it eighteen, however. The carrier has been actively pursuing the space from day one. Utilization details remain vague, but a Southwest spokesperson said that the “additional two gates  will allow [for]…approximately twenty additional flights and serve numerous new nonstop destinations.”

While the airline says it will “actively participate in the process of re-allocating American’s gates at Love Field” it no doubt has more to lose by being passed up. Unlike both Delta and Virgin, both of which already operate out of DFW, Southwest is stuck in Love Field. It can move to DFW in theory, but not without giving up gates at Love Field – a move it clearly doesn’t wish to make. “We don’t have the option of serving DFW without a penalty…Southwest should [receive] the gates and the airlines who are currently serving DFW could do so there.”

The carrier announced its first post-Wright Amendment flight restriction destinations last month, on February 3rd.

The DOJ has not set a timeline on making a decision.

 

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