by Michael Lowrey
Note the use of the word “if” in this press release:
DALLAS — Southwest Airlines plans to add 20 flights to 12 new nonstop destinations if the airline is able to acquire two additional gates at Dallas Love Field. Southwest would add nonstop service to:
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.
San Francisco, Calif.
These 12 new nonstop destinations would be added to Southwest’s schedule if the airline is able to obtain the rights to two Love Field gates that American Airlines must relinquish under the terms of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
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.
Southwest is the dominate at the airport with 16 gates. American Airlines controls two gates at the airport though it doesn’t actually fly there. American instead leases 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 want the gates and the press release is a public relations move by Southwest to attempt to influence the Department of Justice’s decision making on who should acquire them.
You can read more about the process here, including that the DOJ has ruled Delta out.
(And yes, the government determining who can fly where is absurd as is the cap on gates.)