Topic of the Week: Virgin America Officially Gets Love Field Gates, But What Will Delta Do?

DAL - Dallas/Love Field, Delta, Virgin America

It’s finally official. Virgin America will get 2 gates at Dallas/Love Field. That means Delta, which had already been selling flights for its planned expansion, is out of luck. So what do you think will happen? Will Delta find a way to keep operating there? What will United do, if anything? Will Virgin America be successful here?

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40 comments on “Topic of the Week: Virgin America Officially Gets Love Field Gates, But What Will Delta Do?

  1. Virgin will have some success, but only if their schedule improves. Flying all the way to LA/SFO just to connect to an infrequent flight to somewhere else (SEA) for example, is horrible.

    I have to go to SEA a few times a year, and I just fly WN (since I can’t stand AA). It is an easy flight stopping in ABQ then off I go. The overall time is only a slightly more than AA, cost is usually less (for Y fare), and schedule is a lot better.

    I have looked at Virgin more than once for that trip, but the schedule always has a 6 hour layover at either SFO or LAX in there, which is just intolerable. United has a mega hub close by (IAH), and Delta gets you to SLC or ATL where they have flights leaving all the time, so your connection time is short and probably not much if any back tracking taking place.

    I would have rather seen those gates to WN. Virgin was already at DFW, so for the Metroplex this bought us nothing, and reduced the opportunity that WN would give us with the Wright Amendment going away in a few months. I read somewhere recently, I tried to find it but couldn’t, that WN only has ~15% of the gates in the Metroplex whereas AA has > 50%. Two more at DAL could have meant some really great connections/schedules, where as Virgin is just going to move shop but not provide any new opportunities.

    1. Agreed that it is probably rough to connect on VX, since they have less frequent schedules, but if they gave the gates to WN, it would basically be a nearly monopoly at the airport by WN. Wasn’t the point of forcing AA to divest them to create more competition?

      1. Jared,

        Looking at the airports separately, yes, it creates a little bit more competition over DL (maybe).

        But if you look at the Metroplex as a whole, which is both DFW and DAL (they are 15m apart), this didnt do anything. Virgin is just moving gates from DFW to DAL. WN would have increased competition against DFW’s status as a fortress hub for AA.

        1. The fallacy in that argument is that WN wanted DOJ to look at only airports and not metro areas when making decisions on slot/gate divestitures during the merger. WN dug their own grave on this one.

          1. I wouldn’t say fallacy in the argument, since the argument is sound. But that doesn’t at all diminish your point. WN did completely dig their own grave.

            Looking back, I am not sure why they did that. Look at Dallas Fort Worth as a whole makes sense. The airports are close together and have two major airlines based at them.

        2. How would giving two more gates to WN change the competition? WN has 16 gates, so if they want to put on a flight to, say, Indianapolis, they can, and cut a flight Midland or Albuquerque to do so.

          Southwest can open many markets if they want.

          1. WN can’t compete with AA on sheer number of flights out of the Metroplex. Those extra gates “could” have changed it a little.

            Now, your point is also very valid. I fully expect ELP, MSY, OKC, TUL, ABQ, LUB, MAF, AMA, LIT, BHM to shrink. Possibly SAT, MCI, and STL some as well.

            But I dont know if that will free up slots. Since most, if not 100% of those flights just continue on to somewhere else. I was on a flight a few months ago that was DAL -> STL -> BOS. Of the 96 people on the flght in DAL, 12 got off in STL. So really, that was a BOS flight.

            1. Im not sure about ELP shrinking. They have already cut down on frequency, it is a large market and ELP has an irrational fondness for WN.

            2. Nick – Actually, I don’t believe they can start service at DFW without a corresponding pulldown at Love. I think that was the deal.

    2. I’m confused by this. Isn’t VX tripling the size of its operation in the metroplex, adding service to New York, Washington, and Chicago, not to mention an additional flight each to LA and SF. How is this not adding anything?
      Also, while it may or may not matter to us leisure travelers, the opportunity to fly with a premium product with a first class, power at all seats, food on board, interline agreements for travel outside of the US can be a real sell, particularly from the business traveler perspective.

    3. It adds nothing for you personally because your travel takes you to SEA. For those looking to travel to SFO, LAX, LGA and DCA it’s actually pretty huge since its on an airline that provides amenities that Southwest doesn’t and offers competition on major destinations from the Dallas area at an airport that may be somewhat more convenient than DFW. I think Southwest will be ok with the 16 gates they’ll have to work with.

      1. That is fair point. I travel to the west coast a lot, and would really consider VX if the scheduling improves.

        I would really hop on if VX went to AUS and BOS from DAL since I travel to those two the most behind the west coast.

    4. What specifically is wrong with there schedule? It sounds like the only way they could satisfy you would be to set up a hub in ABQ or fly multiple daily non stops to SEA. They have to work with what they have.

      Don’t forget AS flies DFW-SEA non stop also.

      1. They dont need multiple daily non-stops to SEA from DAL/DFW, but better connection times at LAX/SFO.

        I travel up there for business, and the last flight out on VX is like 10:30a with a 5 hr layover in LAX.

        I agree with you, that they have to work with what they have. Which is really my first point, that once they move to DAL, and expand their schedule, that is how they can succeed in that market.

        I have companion pass status on WN already secured for 2015, but I would be willing to change over to VX if the schedule worked.

  2. The debate over the Love Field gates has been lively the last few weeks. Part of the issue is that some people still see Southwest as a low-fare discount carrier, when they really are not. And they already had a near monopoly at Love, so giving them 18 of the 20 gates seems pretty silly.

    I question whether Virgin can be successful long-term with this approach, but I think they can find a mix of flights to make it work. 16-18 flights a day they can do, I think.

    As far as Delta is concerned, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them lease gate space from United and Virgin, allowing them to fly to Atlanta from Love, but I don’t see them getting any more gate space.

    This is the biggest problem with the whole agreement to end the Wright Amendment. By placing an ironclad limit of 20 gates on the place, you really haven’t changed anything, and you have also artificially kept fares high.

  3. VX is intending to capture O&D from DAL to these locations. There will be a few incremental connections at SFO, LAX, and even at DAL for those wanting LAX-DAL-LGA.

    I thought that DL should be allowed to maintain at least their current 5x daily ATL flights given the current service. Based on the city’s comments the other day, it seems they will pressure UA to not sit on the gates with just token RJ’s to IAH. And given UA doesn’t have a competing hub in the Southeast, I can see UA being fine with some extra cash and letting DL sublease half a gate ONLY for ATL-DAL.

    WN is probably waiting to see the effect of opening DAL on the perimeter stations (ABQ, STL, MSY, ELP, etc.) before trimming some of those frequencies. Then it’ll have plenty of room to open the extra stations it promised (IND, DTW, etc.). This fare war is going to be fun to watch :)

    1. I can also see DL trying to get a gate from UA or maybe VX. Though, I think United would have to have it pulled from them pretty strongly. Sure, they might restrict that flying as DAL-ATL, but that could take passengers off that were planning on connecting through IAH elsewhere.

  4. Could care less about DL at Love. They had a big hub in DFW at one time and decided to shut it down, so why should they get anything special at Love. Virgin America will be new life in the area and just because someone had a long connection in SFO/LAX from DFW before, doesn’t mean VX won’t time DAL/SFO/LAX flights to make for better connections. DFW is a large market, so shouldn’t need to use the large cities VX serves now to only connect via them, local DAL-SFO/LAX should do just fine as is.

    Also VX is smart to not do something stupid like try and use both DAL and DFW.

    1. Agree that DFW is a large market, but don’t overlook that DAL is a smaller market due to being off the freeway grid.

      That makes it a lot more inconvenient for those who live outside Dallas County, and I don’t see anyone aside from the uber-faithful VX flyers choosing to drive from Tarrant County to DAL vs. DFW.

  5. I was pleased to see Virgin get the gates – I’ve been an AA partisan because a) they fly where I need to go in almost all cases and b) switching any flights to another carrier would dip me just below the threshold to qualify for my AAdvantage elite status. That said, lots of people don’t have status issues sticking them to one airline, and Virgin America has a compelling hard and soft product. Adding DCA and LGA to the exisitng LAX and SFO I think gives them a nice mix of business critical destinations. Plenty of people need to get to one of those four places, live closer to Love than DFW, and want to fly a carrier with a few more bells and whistles than Southwest – First class, extra legroom seats, assigned seats, etc… As my travel freqency declines, and I get to the point of no status on AA and not flying freqently enough to make miles earning any kind of a priority, I’ll likely be one of them. Also, I’m just a fan of Don Carty in general.

  6. JohnG has it right! I have been on one crowded WN flight too many. Traveling cross country from DCA to LAX or SFO on VX lux with a nice stretch in DAL is a much more pleasant way to get there.

  7. Is there anything stopping DL (or any airline) from going the route of Europe and having remote bus gates? Would let DL operate say 4 or flights from 2 gates instead of just 2?

      1. Depends on how you define gates. If a gate is the thing the passenger walks through, you could serve two planes out of one gate at the same time. If a gate is a spot the airplane parks for passengers to disembark and embark, then they’re toast.

        1. The amended agreement clearly defines what a gate is at DAL. Pax may only board/disembark from one of the 20 gates at the terminal. No bussing, ramp boarding, no split gates.

  8. The topic is what will DL do, wright?…

    DL’s followed a strategy of offering service at both MDW & ORD, from all the NYC airports, and from LGB as well as SNA and LAX. In those three cities, it’s a fairly smart decision, since they have significantly higher population densities and can support multiple airports into your hubs.

    Those airports are also geographically separated enough to make a difference (in general, it’s a 45 minute driving decision to pick one over the other unless you live between them).

    DAL is a slightly different situation. Dallas County is “only” 2.5m people, which isn’t anywhere near Chicago or Houston’s population density. It’s hard to include Collin, Denton or Tarrant Counties into the equation because DAL is quite inconvenient in comparison to DFW once you’re outside the LBJ Loop.

    There’s really no population of any consequence between the two airports, and it’s only a 15-20 minute drive (at Texas highway speeds) between the two terminals. I drive farther to take my son to school…

    I think UA and AA made the wright decision not to try and split their business across both airports (UA’s limited DAL-IAH service notwithstanding).

    AA v1.0 went thru decades of acting on emotion vs. logic with regard to DAL. I’m glad to see that they didn’t try to re-hash their actions of the late 1990’s again, and that the AA v2.0 team saw agreeing not to re-enter DAL as an easy giveaway (and since they kept the master lease, it’s one they could feasibly re-consider because the settlement order expires several years before their lease comes up for renewal).

    Assuming DL keeps DAL-ATL only, I don’t see a lot of upside for them. They’ve got that traffic locked in today with their RJ’s. Post-perimeter, they’re planning to put 717’s in there (some see it as the ultimate act of irony since the aircraft came from WN & FL), but WN will be adding that market as well, so the WN uber-faithful who have flown DL out of necessity will now fly on WN. The amenities DL has to offer for that short of a flight aren’t enough for the A-Listers.

    Looking at the other hub markets (DAL-DTW/MSP/LGA), it’s possible that DL will do OK, but I see it diluting traffic they’re already carrying out of DFW. Again, no upside.

    The only market that might be interesting to keep is DAL-LAX — they’re not serving that from DFW, so there’s no risk of dilution or cannibalism. There’s still risk, though, in they’re going to have direct competition from both WN and VX.

    Bottom line… I think DL risks a lot of cannibalism and dilution by trying to serve both airports, and it will be a very costly experiment in the end. Their decision to fight over the two gates appeared to be more about ego than actual opportunity, and now it’s probably more about saving face than it is opportunity.

    1. Yes we know WN will jump on DAL-ATL in a huge way and they will be the major player on the route. But DL on DAL-ATL opens up so many more connections to the Northeast, deep South, and Europe that WN has no intention of serving. Ultimately it’s a fourth carrier at DAL and that by the DOT’s logic is an increase in competition.

      1. Sure, DL via ATL offers connections, but they’re already flying DAL-ATL with CRJ’s and offering those connections today.

        Upgauging to a B717 doubles the number of seats, but won’t automatically double the demand.

        1. It’s not that the demand doesn’t exist, it’s that DL (and everyone else) is restricted from flying DAL-ATL on anything larger than 50 seats until October 13. So right now the demand at DAL is underserved due to artificial restrictions.

          That’s why this is a big deal and we had 3 airlines fighting for two gates.

    2. It must have been awhile, maybe in 1974, since it took 20 minutes to go from DAL to DFW. Today it can take more than just 20 minutes to get out of the airport, either one! There is no 75 mph speed limit between Love and DFW and the highways are always jammed. I do remember when it took 20 minutes but those days are gone forever unless you are in a helicopter.

      1. The speed limit may be lower, but traffic certainly moves between 65 and 70 the last few times I’ve driven it. The point still stands that that distance for someone driving to DAL vs. DFW is negligible for a majority of Dallas residents.

  9. Without a gate agreement with UA, DL will be forced to cease all DAL service, gate utilization will be too high for the VX gates for them to offer at any meaningful time to Delta. Comments from the city council indicate they know UA is hoarding the two gates. if UA keeps the same schedule and does not magically add IAD,EWR, ORD, SFO and LAX service to lash out at VX then in theory DL could utilize UA gates for a partial service perhaps ATL and LAX.

  10. I’ve flown on WN where they actually had two aircraft leaving from the same gate at the same time. No reason they can’t do that at DAL. One goes on the jetway, the other goes down (and up) the steps.

    1. It would violate the Five Party Agreement to do that. Gates cannot be subdivided, and cannot accommodate more than one aircraft. Hard stands cannot be used either, except in irregular operations.

  11. Good for VIRGIN! The gates at Love Field allow for VIRGIN to expand service and add to the routes it now has. Schedules can be adjusted accordingly to make this work for VIRGIN. COMPETITION IS GOOD for consumers. I could care less about the once discount SouthWest or the mega airlines United or Delta. They all have already cornered too many markets, hurting competition and the affordibility for consumers – even before all those extra fees are added! Hope VIRGIN can pickup more routes and partners in the future.

  12. So Consumer Mike says its great for Virgin to expand service and grow routes. It could have done that at DFW and added many more than the two gates at Love. So it now grows at DAL instead, to what end? It has 2 gates and zero chance to grow beyond that. Dallas is a two airport city like many large cities. The two airports keep each other balanced and also serve different markets at the same time. The two Love gates going to Southwest and keeping Virgin at DFW to grow there would have provide the most benefit for the whole market.

  13. I bet VX does well on the LGA-DAL route, as AA is now nearly $800 round trip on an aging MD88. If nothing else it will make AA upgrade aircraft and down grade pricing. Similar to what happened in SJU when B6 began service.

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