American Pulls Out of Dallas/Love Field, Turns on the Spin Machine

The whole point of PR is to try to spin an issue in your favor, but sometimes the spin is so strong, you feel like you’re riding the teacups at Disneyland. Yesterday, American announced it was pulling out of Dallas/Love Field with a release entitled . . . “AA Signs New Lease at Love Field.” Huh?

Technically, American has signed a new extended lease with Dallas/Love Field that commits the airline American's PR Strategyto Love until 2028. BUT, beginning June 11, the airline will suspend service until the terminal work is done. When will that happen? 2013, as of now. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a four year suspension of service is actually pulling out of a market.

Why would they bother to renew a lease on the terminal if they clearly don’t want to be there for the next four years? Well it all goes back to the whole Love Field fight. When DFW opened, traffic restrictions were put in place at Love Field (by the Wright Amendment) to force airlines to move to DFW. Southwest refused to move, and the battle was born.

Southwest really became aggressive at trying to end the restrictions recently, and American tried to play the “doom” card. American said it would have to move a bunch of flights to Love, split its hub up, and the whole area would suffer just so it could compete with Southwest.

Once Love was opened up slightly, American immediately jumped into the airport with flights to show that the doom and gloom was coming. Well those flights failed, and they ended up consolidating around a single route – Love to Chicago/O’Hare. Now that route is going away.

But as part of the compromise, Love was restricted to a certain number of gates (20), and American got some of those gates. So what would happen if they gave them up? Well Southwest would be able to grow into those gates. Hmm, they can’t have that. So it appears they’ve committed to the gates under the assumption that they’ll need to squat on them in the future.

If I were Southwest, I’d be mounting a challenge here to see if I could get those gates, but of course when I asked them, they didn’t have any official challenge to speak about. They did, however, say that with more of the current terminal being empty right now with American’s departure, it might allow them to accelerate the completion of the new terminal because it gives them more room to maneuver.

You hear that American? That may make you come back to the airport in only 3 years. Think you can handle it?

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