by Michael Lowrey
A recall that a year ago, Southwest Airlines put out a press release stating that if they got more gates at Dallas Love Field (DAL), then they’d add a flight from there to Charlotte. Well, Southwest just got access to two more gates at Love Field and on Thursday announced additional flights from the airport. Not included: Charlotte.
Updated background: Flights from Love Field have long been restricted by the Wright Amendment. Originally, this was a geographic restriction, think Texas and adjacent states though a couple more states were allowed by congressional action over time. An agreement was reached in 2006 to end the geographic restriction in late 2014 in exchange for a cap on the number of gates at the airport at 20, which would limit flights from the airport. Thus gates are a rather valuable asset at Love Field.
When the US airways/American Airlines merger was proposed, Southwest was easily the dominate carrier at Love Field with 16 gates. United had two gates. American Airlines controlled two gates though it doesn’t actually fly there. American instead leased the gates to Delta. As part of the anti-trust agreement to merge with US Airways, American agreed to give these up.
Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America all wanted American’s gates and Southwest’s press release from last March was an obvious public relations move to sway the Department of Justice’s decision making on who should acquire them. Ultimately, the DOJ selected Virgin America. That didn’t quite end the matter, as Southwest has now acquired control of United’s two gates, with United also to stop flying from DAL. Hence Southwest’s Love Field expansion.