Dallas Tells Delta to Take a Hike, No Room For the Airline at Love Field

Remember how the Department of Justice (DOJ) was so concerned with preserving competition at Dallas/Love Field as part of the American/US Airways merger? Well, the many pieces of that plan have no fallen into place, and there’s an odd man out. Delta is being kicked out of the airport entirely because there’s no longer any room. Hooray… competition?

Dallas Kicks Delta Out of Love Field

This doesn’t really come as a surprise. As part of the Wright Amendment settlement, Love Field was capped at no more than 20 gates and Southwest controlled 16 of them. Two were more were controlled by United via an Express partner and were used primarily for flights to Houston. The airline tried Denver but that failed miserably. The last two were controlled by American, but it hadn’t flown there for awhile. Instead, it had leased the gates out to Delta which used them most recently for Atlanta flights.

As part of the American/US Airways merger, DOJ forced American to give up its two gates. American, under new management, had no interest in flying to Love anymore anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal. But there were plenty of airlines that wanted those gates. Delta proposed creating a substantial operation with flights to all its hubs. Virgin America proposed to fly to its LA and San Francisco hubs as well as to New York and Washington. Southwest hoped to just add more flights to its schedule. In the end, DOJ chose Virgin America.

With those two gates taken, Delta had to abandon its plans to serve all of its hubs from Love (some flights, like LAX, were started at DFW instead), but it had hoped to keep flying its already-existing five daily flights to Atlanta. That’s not happening.

Southwest may control 16 gates, but it is planning on using the heck out of them. There’s no room for Delta there. Virgin America is also trying to pack in flights at its two gates, so Delta couldn’t squeeze in there either. That left the two United-occupied gates as the only hope.

As of now, United flies a mere 5 to 7 flights a day to Houston/Intercontinental. I believe it’s from these gates that little Seaport operates its two daily essential air service flights to Arkansas as well. Combined, these barely need the use of more than one gate. There could have been room for Delta.

But if you’re United, why would you ever want to let Delta stay in Love Field if you can prevent it? You wouldn’t. And apparently United is so afraid of Delta being there that it’s willing to burn a ton of cash to make it happen. Beginning next year, United bumps up its Houston flights to 11 or 12 daily. I can’t imagine that’s going to be remotely profitable, but that’s United’s choice. That left Dallas with no choice but to tell Delta that there’s no room for the airline.

This all seems insane, right? There’s no physical limit to the footprint at Love Field. They have plenty of runway to build more gates, but American fought it so hard under its previous management team that it got this artificial limit put in place. That keeps Southwest smaller than it might want to be there, and it now prevents Delta from flying to Love Field at all.

If DOJ was really concerned about competition, it should have put some effort into ending this silly artificial limit, but then again, who would really be supportive? If you’re Southwest, you actually love this. You have a built-in near-monopoly that guarantees you riches. Sure, Southwest might like to fly more from Love, but is it worth it to let others into the airport? No way. Competition is no fun if you can avoid it. And in this case, it’s easy for Southwest to avoid.

So the end result is that Delta is out at Love, and nobody else will get in unless an existing airline decides to cut back or this silly artificial limit is eliminated. This is one ridiculous situation.

[Original musical chairs photo via Shutterstock]

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47 Comments on "Dallas Tells Delta to Take a Hike, No Room For the Airline at Love Field"

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Xnuiem
Member

“This is one ridiculous situation.” Ever since DFW was built, that pretty much sums up Love Field.

noahkimmel
Member

I agree that it is UA’s choice to fly 12x unprofitable flights, but it’s really annoying. Reminds me of PM-US at LGA with double digit flights to PHL. Basically, in the end, it seems that Southwest cleaned up. They eliminated a strong competitor and brought in a weak one. Virgin has no better grasp on the business market, has fewer growth possibilities than the legacies, and only has 2 real routes, and perhaps 5 destinations, on which they can compete.

MeanMeosh
Guest
You forgot one other reason why that artificial gate cap exists – the neighborhood associations around the airport want it that way. They wanted Love Field closed in 1979, have raised a stink every time Southwest has tried to expand there, and only reluctantly agreed to the Wright repeal after the parties agreed to demolish the Legend Airlines terminal and cut the number of gates to 20. If the DOJ had tried to do something about that, I can guarantee it would have been in court for the next 20 years at least. Something still tells me we haven’t heard… Read more »
SEAN
Guest

Someone at Southwest must have read “The art of war.”

John G
Guest

The problems with the neighborhood associations are 1) the vast majority of people around the airport have moved there over the last 20-30 years, and they already knew there was an airport there, with lots of jet noise…and 2) there are dozens and dozens of private jet flights from Love every day, and most of those are louder than commercial jets.

Jorg
Guest

I’m sort of happy to see that this isn’t just a concern in Europe (where space is more limited), but also in the US. Why on earth would you go live next to an airport and then complain about the noise? I live near a canal, but you don’t hear me complaining about the noisy boats or the parties that are given?

This type of people make me sick of mankind… Especially when they use that same airport twice a year to go on vacation.

MeanMeosh
Guest

That’s a valid point, except the problems with the neighborhood associations long predates the Wright fights of the past 20-30 years. IIRC, those same associations (particularly in Bluffview) were at the front lines of trying to shut down DAL entirely back in the late 70s. Nothing new, in other words, though I’m sure the invasion of Cedar Springs by the hipsters isn’t going to help going forward. It’s similar in many ways to the neighborhoods that keep fighting SNA and LGB.

John G
Guest
This thing wasn’t designed with competition in mind. The political situation has been to “protect” DFW Airport since the day it opened. Those of you that are not from this area don’t understand, but Fort Worth has been jealous of Dallas’ airports and air options for more than half a century. Back then, most of the people in this area actually lived in the two cities, and they are 30 miles apart, so each wanted to capture the air travel for the area. Dallas was bigger, and had the primary business center, so naturally most of the air carriers went… Read more »
Jorg
Guest

Thank you for this extensive explanation! Of course, I’ve read the Wikipedia-pages, but this gives a lot more insight.

oldiesfan6479
Guest

The Fort Worth airport was Greater (not Great) Southwest Int’l Airport–airport code GSW, not GSA. When it was originally built, its name was Amon Carter Field (ACF). That name went over real well in Dallas. BTW, Amon Carter Blvd in Fort Worth (the location of AA HQ) is a street built over the former runway 17/35 of GSW. Check this page on airfields-freeman.com for some more history of the Fort Worth airport:
http://www.airfields-freeman.com/TX/Airfields_TX_FtWorth_NE.htm#greaterSW

SeanYoda
Guest
Great explanation of the history, but it has a gap… In 1967, Air Southwest incorporated with the intent to follow the PSA/Air Cal model of intra-state flying. However, in February 1968, when the Texas Aeronautics Commission granted Air Southwest the right to fly within Texas, Braniff, Trans-Texas (later Texas International) and Continental filed a lawsuit and obtained a restraining order which prevented Air Southwest from commencing operations. Air Southwest spent the next three years fighting for its right to fly. At the same time, the airlines that were operating out Dallas Love Field all signed contracts specifying that they would… Read more »
rfa28
Member

Thank you for sharing this information. I’d just like to comment that even though it wasn’t about competition in the past, I don’t think you can say that it has never been about competition. The DOJ made it that way when they took the two gates from American in the name of competition.

David SF eastbay
Member

Don’t worry, I don’t think DL will go under because it can’t fly 5x DAL-ATL……lol

The way it is now, no one will ever be a power house in DAL except Southwest, so it doesn’t really matter who else flys there.

121 Pilot
Guest

Speaking of ridiculous situations how about the perimiter rules that limit how far flights can go from DCA, LGA, and SNA? Those are even sillier rules that need to go.

Joe L
Guest

SNA doesn’t have a perimeter rule, to my knowledge. What it does have is a curfew and some pretty draconian noise abatement procedures, both related to all those million dollar homes that were built in the flight path of the airport.

James S
Guest
Agree that the whole situation is ridiculous and should never have been approved in its final form. The end result of this “compromise” is, as you’ve said, an entrenched monopoly for Southwest at Love Field. That doesn’t seem to bother the DOT or the DOJ, both of whom bend over backwards to appease Southwest every opportunity they get. Whatever baby wants, baby gets. Southwest isn’t happy with its access to LGA? OK, here’s more slot pairs. Unhappy you can’t get into DCA? OK, here’s a bunch of slots that you can use to fly to Tampa and Orlando and Fort… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Well said. Completely agree

jaybru
Member

Is there no greater hate in business today than that of one airline toward another?

Likewise, is there no greater foolishness than that which a local politician can pull off?

And that’s the way it is, but what a country, huh?

Alex
Guest
Well more intrigue today. Appears UA was simply making sure the City of Dallas ran off DL yesterday, because today they announced a temporary gate use agreement with WN for 1 of their 2 gates, giving WN 17 gates now. UA also said they are increasing their daily IAH departures to 10, but I think that was just an excuse so that they could say it wasn’t possible to come to a gate use agreement with DL. As cranky flier stated, UA is going to lose a bunch of money flying regional jets to IAH, my money is on a… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member

Wow. If UA doesn’t follow through on ending the lease in January I wonder if they’ve set themselves and WN up for a lawsuit for tortuous interference or something like that.

It seems sketchy that WN needs one additional gate for only two months..

PF
Guest

UA may surprise all of us with larger equipment to more destinations – you never know.

Doug
Guest
I could go on and on about why Delta would have been a better choice than Virgin (prowess to price competitively and undercut Southwest, connections to anywhere in the world with one stop, no love lost between Delta and Southwest given SLC and ATL, etc.). As a Dallas resident, I’m extremely angry that local politicians fell victim to the concept that adding a “low cost carrier” would increase competition at the airport. Virgin’s routes are 100% duplicative of Southwest, and Southwest will crush them. Also, Virgin was stupid for doing this. With such a scarcity in flights, Virgin will never… Read more »
B757capt
Guest

Something not talked about is the fact that the new AA management team has stated that if they were allowed to keep the DAL gates they would have flown out of them. Again, another airline to add competition.

Jim
Guest

I don’t understand the logic behind these artificial limits. DFW is one of the busiest airport in the world. Is it really at risk if DAL adds a few flights? Both MDW and BUR are closer to their downtown areas than ORD and LAX, and neither one has any limits, and yet the bigger, further airports are doing just fine.

However, I understand that AA has a lot of power in Washington, DC, and knows how to use it. However, I’m glad to see VX at DAL. Hopefully they will stimulate competition.

John G
Guest

See my post above. The limitations are a legacy of the long fight between Dallas and Fort Worth. If Fort Worth had its way, Love Field would close. This was a compromise.

bjørn14
Guest

Well, maybe DL can start at FTW. I hear they gave a few avialable gates.

dan power
Guest

stinks!!…legacy airlines were forced to let southwest land in DCA and LGA…slot controlled, legacy controlled airports….WHY can southwest get away with monopolies in love field, houston hobby, and midway????

Shane
Member

The Midway “monopoly” was really more of Southwest jumping at gate openings than federal intervention. The legacies all had a minimal presence at Midway with opportunity to expand several times. However, as airlines left (Midway, ATA, etc), the legacies decreased their presence and Southwest increased, with the recent exception of Delta. Therefore, I’m not sure Midway fits in the same mold as DCA and LGA, especially since MDW is not slot controlled.

SEAN
Guest

True. DAL was unique in that WN was restricted where it could fly even though it had a monopoly. On the other hand at MDW, WN has no restrictions & needs to compete with airlines at ORD. It does have two advantages at MDW though 1. proximity to the loop & 2. much less congestion

TRB
Member

Ex-Memphian here. Forgive me if I don’t feel Delta’s pain.

Doug Swalen
Guest

Given what Delta is doing to Alaska in Seattle, I feel more than a little Schadenfreude at Delta’s predicament at Love. What goes around, comes around…

Mike Stengel
Guest

Sounds like United is still being managed under the “fight for market share” philosophy by adding flights just to cut the competitor out, rather than a disciplined approach to capacity management. No one wins under the former approach and I don’t understand why they continue to push it.

TRB
Member
United turns around and subleases one the gates to Southwest, decides to nearly triple turn around time at rhe other gate. Delta has it’s lawers fire off a “we gonna sue” letter to Dallas because it promised to allow Delta Love Field access to the FAA in 09 . Funny, I remember Delta promising to not dehub Memphis to the DOJ to help allow them to complete the merger with TWA. Funny thing watching O and D traffic at Memphis rise as folks start using new Southwest and Frontier service. Looking forward to Memphis International’s Concourse consolidation and redo.
Nick Barnard
Member

Except Delta didn’t merge with TWA. American Airlines bought TWA out of bankruptcy.

Daniel
Guest

Is there a date when all these gate leases expire or are they indefinite?

TRB
Member

I meant Northwest

Dave
Guest

As a Houstonian whose company has both Dallas and Fort Worth offices, I do fly to both DAL and DFW. DAL is of course closer if I’m headed to Dallas proper, but the one thing that really pushes me away from DFW is the rental car facility. The damned thing is so far away, and the common shuttle buses so packed, that it takes a good 30 minutes to get the car and leave. At DAL, you can practically walk to half the rental car agencies.

OZARK
Guest

BREAKING: Southwest has agreed to allow Delta to utilize an unspecified gate at DAL until the end of the year per Dallas Morning News

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