Topic of the Week: Should Delta Be Able to Fly to Dallas Love Field?

DAL - Dallas/Love Field, Delta, Southwest

It’s been a heck of a fight between Southwest and Delta in Dallas. Once United gave up its gates to Southwest, Delta (which subleased from United) had nowhere to go. Yet Delta says the feds require that all airlines at Love be allowed to continue to fly. Southwest says it has no room for Delta to use its gate (nor does the holder of the other two gates, Virgin America). Lawsuits have been flying and a temporary solution allows Delta to keep using a Southwest gate for its 5 flights to Atlanta until everything makes it through the courts.

But let’s forget all that. Should Delta be allowed to fly to Love? Or should Southwest be able to use its gates as it pleases, freezing Delta out?

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65 comments on “Topic of the Week: Should Delta Be Able to Fly to Dallas Love Field?

  1. Yes Delta should be allowed to continue to operate at Love Field. Imagine if this took place in another industry. Consumers would riot. No consumer choice? Their request is reasonable. If not left the courts decide. I think in the end Delta is allowed to operate from one of the gates and we see a new amendment in the works. Long term Delta opens a new hub at Love Field to battle Southwest dominance.

    1. ? Delta will never have a hub at DAL. It is gate limited and WN has a strangle hold on it. As a very frequent WN flyer, and I live near Flower Mound, I am fine with WN having 18 of the 20 gates. United is crap, so I am happy to see them get out of the way. Delta has never been a good choice for me, mostly because I never really started flying until after their mini-hub at DFW was shuttered.

      Overall, nothing really lost here. Delta can fly to Atlanta and several other of their hubs from DFW and go fight AA for those people. God knows that UA doesnt even show up to the fight operating from that cesspit in terminal E.

      Let VX and WN have DAL. The connections are great now. No more mandatory HOU stops to get places, we can actually get direct flights.

      This is all because of government regulation in the first place. If the Wright Amendment never happened, DAL would be a free airport, but we had to draw a line, and this was one that was agreed to by the parties. Delta was not even at the table since they have not had gates at DAL in decades now. They have been sub-leasing for a very long time.

  2. the irony here is incredibly rich. Texas prides itself on being in favor of small government and the absence of regulations.

    Don’t mess with Texas.

    In fact, didn’t Rick Perry want to abolish three departments of the federal government during his last run for President? (Yes, yes, oops – he couldn’t name all three…)

    But now those lovers of tiny government and no regulation changed one set of rules – Wright – for another – no more than 20 gates, we choose who gets them vs. a bidding war, and well, DL is mean and from Georgia, so let’s let the WN guys who are Texas through and through prevail.

    You can’t help but chuckle.

    Note: I don’t live there and I rarely travel there, so ultimately I can’t care if DL wins or not.

    But I can still enjoy all the sturm und drang.

    1. Neil, you’re showing your ass. This has nothing to do with Rick Perry or really even with TX State Politics.

    2. It was golden when he looked at Ron Paul for help during that brainfart. Almost as if he was thinking, “I say this stuff, but you actually BELIEVE it!”

  3. Yes and eliminate the extremely stupid gate restriction and let the market and Dallas dictate the direction of Love field.

    1. Bingo. There shouldn’t be legal restrictions which prevent the airport at operating at a size and scale that meets demand from airlines and consumers. Heck, just bring the airport back up to 32 gates.

  4. im not a lawyer, but it seems to me that Delta’s beef should be with United. Once United “gave” the gates to WN, Delta is gone as far as WN is concerned. They were United’s gates after all. Unless contracts stipulate, why would WN be forced to honor an agreement it was not a party to?
    Don’t even get me started on the insanity that is the Love Field situation.

    1. the 5 party agreement said that airlines would voluntarily accommodate any existing or new entrant. Southwest having most gates and being the one expanding would likely be the one who has to give in. Delta feels by being pushed out, it is a violation. Whether it is or not is the question.

    1. Agree McKinney National (KTKI) is the solution for Delta. However currently that would require an amendment to WA2. If I were Delta I would push for that amendment and have northeast Dallas, Collin and eastern Collin counties (where a majority of the wealth in Dallas lives) all to themselves.

      1. This is interesting, because it becomes a situation similar to DAY vs CVG in the Cincinnati area. A more convenient, non-hub, cheaper airport is available near the wealthier suburbanites in the north of the metro area, who would prefer not to have to drive though the traffic close to and around the big city and deal with the headaches associated with the big hub airport. Slap some flights down to leisure destinations and a few to Chicago, NYC, LAX, DC, etc, to cover business travel, and you have a proposition that can potentially be very interesting for many people.

  5. No, start packing. Delta was part of the brigade to have one airport, DFW, and abandoned DAL Now that SWA was successful in overthrowing the the Wright Amendment, built the new DAL facility into a glorious venue, marketed and make DAL desirable and successful, DL wants a piece of the pie they tried to sabotage. Delta – march back to DFW.

    1. A lot of you don’t seem to remember the history behind all this. It was the DFW cities (Dallas, Ft. Worth, Irving, Grapevine, etc) that decided to have one regional airport (DFW). In order to justify the massive investment it would take to create this new airport, they all agreed to close their smaller airports and support the new regional airport. Then Dallas reneged on the deal at the last minute; thus the Wright Amendment was born to try and force Dallas to live up to the original deal. Sure AA fought to keep the Wright Amendment in place (especially after WN had grown into a fierce competitor) but the airlines had little to do with this in the beginning. The City of Dallas has itself to blame for this mess.

      1. How is it a mess for Dallas? The way they did it, they have a small, convenient airport now that is much closer than DFW.

        The controversy around Love doesn’t hurt Dallas much, still have better service than they would have had otherwise.

          1. It’s also a lot of surrounding & supporting businesses that do pay property taxes, however, plus a lot of jobs, plus the hotel and car rental taxes, plus a lot of execs in unrelated industries who are happy to have convenient nonstop service to NYC now (never underestimate the importance of the boss’ commute to home and to the airport when understanding where companies put their offices and facilities). Net net, I say DAL’s existence is a positive for the City of Dallas.

            Might there be a time where DAL is eventually handed over to developers, in some type of a sweetheart deal for a friend of the mayor, under the excuse of generating property taxes? Perhaps, and it might even be the “best” thing for Dallas long term at some point, but I think there are a lot of business people and a lot of leisure travelers who would argue against that.

        1. You say”…much closer than DFW.” Much closer than what? Love Field is over an hour away from me, I’ll continue to use DFW!

          BTW, it’s a mess for Dallas, because they and WN are restricting interstate commerce, which is governed by Federal Law. The City of Dallas, if not careful, could lose control of the airport with this issue over Delta’s gates.

      2. Exactly right. And the only thing that didn’t keep DAL from more restrictions was that one entity (such as JFK/EWR/LGA or DCA/IAD). Had DFW/DAL been owned by the same entity, the restrictions could have been kept. That’s why AUS closed Mueller and DEN closed Stapleton – to avoid these types of problems!

    2. The move to DFW was agreed to before Southwest ever had a single plane. They exploited a loophole to get into LUV then changed the rules. DAL was always desirable and successful and that was the very reason the DFW move was agreed to by existing carriers. It is not that there was an airline brigade to get DFW, but a government one. It sounds like you want to punish Delta for abiding by the city’s plans 30 years ago.

      I believe today’s market is different from back then. I am ok with keeping love and even expanding it, we shouldn’t punish airlines and consumers for what happened in the past and DFW doesn’t need help anymore. But, I do think that any airline that wants to serve LUV should be given the right to. Southwest should not be gifted a fortress hub, especially since giving Delta gate space for 5 flights does not remove current Southwest flying.

    3. that was a very long time ago…times have changed and so has flying….it’s a new game now and the playing field is heavily tilted toward Southwest….they should have just closed DAL when DFW opened….

  6. I find it interesting because the whole thing started by the government trying to increase competition. The question that was not answered was is this for the whole Dallas market, at which point DAL and DFW can be considered one place or not.

    Gotta hand it to UA though, they made a brilliant move to make money and screw everyone else. VX just constrained their own growth and chose to battle Southwest instead of AA which I find really interesting (leisure over business). Delta and Southwest likely both are posturing and fighting not because either really cares about these 5 flights, but with the intention of trying to open up LUV. WN wants to compete more with AA, DL wants WN and AA to get into a fight in Dallas as it hurts both and keeps DL’s interests in places like ATL from becoming a battle.

    I do think DL should be allowed to fly to love since they already served the airport and we could use more competition not less. Whether it falls all on Southwest to accommodate them, and what financial liability delta should incur, I am not really sure.

    1. Great perspective! As mentioned in other articles, Southwest needs Delta (and Virgin) to fight and complain as right now they are the only ones that can propose to remove the remaining gate restrictions imposed by the wright amendment. The members of the 5 party agreement from 9 years ago (AA, WN, DFW Airport, Dallas, Ft. Worth) are not allowed to try and request any additional changes. Could all these lawsuits by Southwest, City of Dallas and Delta just be part of a backroom agreement to try and remove the gate restricitons at Love Field?

      If Delta fights enough and eventually requests another amendment to remove the gate restrictions then it becomes a crazy battle in the DFW area between Southwest and American. And Delta can just smile away from its thrown in Atlanta. Southwest is already impacting American O&D traffic (American has already mentioned it in Q4 and Q1 calls), I can only imagine what the summer numbers are going to look like now that we have a full busy season with all these new destinations. Spend an afternoon at Love Field and you can just see full flight after full flight heading out all over the US.

      As for Delta’s right, the problem is the wright amendment which tightly controls the rights to lease gate space. The owner of the gates should be allowed to do with them what they want. How a random DOT letter could have more power than a law passed by congress makes no sense. And it is clear that Southwest is battling with American (and winning at times) for the Dallas/Fort Worth market, not battling with Virgin/Delta for the Love Field market.

      1. How a carrier control 18 gates of a 20 gate airport and then try to keep the competition out…right! Remember when Long Beach took a slot away from Alaska at LGB and what happened for the next 20 years! Having lived in in LB, and now Dallas, this DAL situation will become the next Long Beach Airport.

        The reason why LGB became such a huge deal is that judge stated by taking away a slot from Alaska was restricting interstate commerce which is governed by Federal Law. We are stepping into the same situation at DAL!

  7. If you feel in an investigating mood…….
    1. Who got paid off to prevent foreign flights from Love Field.
    2. Who got paid off to limit Love gates to 20?
    3. Who got paid off to give Southwest almost exclusive use of Love?

  8. The whole thing is stupid anyway, has IAH/HOU hurt each other or LGA/JFK DCA/IAD SFO/OAK/SJC MDW/ORD? No, so there should be no restrictions on DAL/DFW. If DAL has the space it should be allowed to grow and increase gates and permit more airlines.

    If they can’t do that, then just say airlines can fly to either DAL or DFW but not both. That would put DL out of DAL since it uses DFW more.

  9. Does anyone think that it’s ironic that WN is pushing out its competition at DAL when they have successfully pushed the government to get slots at LGA, EWR, and DCA stating that more competition is a good thing?

    1. Exactly. They have taken positions on opposite sides of the same argument at different times depending on which side benefited them; whining one way in their pursuit of gates at DCA and then giving the exact opposite argument to support their position at DAL. WN is so duplicitous it’s ridiculous.

      1. Funny Delta wasn’t willing to share any of their gates in ATL when Southwest wanted to go there. They had to buy AirTran.

  10. Delta should absolutely allowed at least two (2) gates at Love Field. SW doesn’t own Love Field and should not be allowed to dictate how it operates. I sincerely hope the courts allow DETLA to operate freely.

    1. Delta could’ve made a bid for UA’s gates if they wanted to serve DAL. With the DOT and DOJ basically claiming DAL/DFW as one market, I don’t see how they have any footing as to why they have to stay at DAL as opposed to moving all operations to DFW.

        1. For every gate WN gains at DFW, they have to divest at DAL (up to 8 I think). That rule doesn’t apply to any other carrier

  11. I would have bet money that the current state of the Wright Amendment would be in court again; however, I did not expect it to be a mere 9 months after first flights began. Personally, I like seeing this DL/WN debate and dragging out in court. Someday in the future the gate cap will be increased (or removed) and international flights will be allowed, it is just a matter of time. The more conflict and debate this 5 party agreement creates, the faster we can get to a full repeal of the Wright Amendment.

    As for the question:
    Should Southwest be allowed to fully utilize their gates? Yes
    Should Delta be allowed to operate at DAL? Yes
    Should any airline be allowed to operate at DAL? Yes
    Can any of this happen with the current laws? No

    If we must to pick a winner because of this moronic law, it should be Southwest. I don’t see a legal footing for Delta to stop Southwest from fully utilizing their gates. I could see an argument if Southwest was running questionable flights for the sake of blocking Delta, but that is not the case. If anything, Virgin is blocking Delta with their ridiculous DAL-AUS flights (which they just cut to 4 flights). Virgin saw this coming and announced DAL-AUS route fast (announced in February with only a 2 month lead-time) to ramp up the gate utilization before this came to a head. If Virgin was only running 7 flights per gate (and WN was at 10), I could see the city asking Virgin (instead of Southwest) to accommodate Delta.

    Side note, remember when US was squatting on their LGA slots back in 2010?
    PHL-LGA had 25 daily flights (weekday, each way) on CRJs/Dash-8s 45.7 (seats/per departure) with a 67% load factor. Many of those flights were within 20 minutes of each other.

    1. even before Virgin announced the AUS flights, they were going to have 20 flights a day, the max use for the gates…they announced AUS and started 5 flights….when the schedule changed, they started 4 flights to each city they fly to….they are short on planes and had to drop flights in other cites to make planes available for the 20 flights a day….Virgin had their plans for DAL and it didn’t involve Delta….Virgin would love to have more gates but that isn’t going to happen. the city needs to fix the mess it made and make room for everyone, even airlines that want to fly into DAL…the city knew Delta was flying into DAL and wanted to expand, gates should have been available for Delta….will be interesting to see how this works out….

      1. I don’t doubt VX would eventually get to full utilization. I’m saying that it is more than likely the case that the upcoming gate shortage upped VX’s time table. Just like B6 going high frequency on LGB-OAK/LAS so they could use up their remaining LGB slots in an attempt to prevent an AA/AS challenge to the slot transfer. VX’s route planners should be fired if they think the best use of precious gate space at DAL is in highly competitive ultra short haul markets.

  12. No. The Widget has been a whiny little you know what lately acting like a tempermental 4 year old (SEA-HND) who doesn’t play well with others (Korean, Alaska) has a bizarre fixation on game shows (“Want to know what that Saver Award will cost you? Come on down. It’s time to play ‘The Great Award Availability Scavenger Hunt'”) and cries to mommy about his well to do cousins (the ME3). We have a word for what it is going through at DAL and that word is “karma”… The Widget can go pound sand for all I care.

  13. Seems the medium term answer is a modification to allow more gates, DL wants more, AA has said they want to operate a few from there (and VX got their gates via AA thru DOJ) it seems something all parties would agree too (WN reluctantly unless DL wins in court). DoT treating DAL & DFW as same is the second worst thing about this (the legal restrictions being the first)

  14. Southwest gave Delta ample warning time that they were going to fully utilize the gate in question effective on whatever date it was and that the sub-lease would not be renewed. This is a matter of property rights with the landlord being free to evict their sub-leasing tenant. Southwest is the airline that made Love Field what it is today and for the Delta slime to not vacate DAL is really low down. If Delta really wants a DAL gate why don’t they pony up some big bucks to convince Virgin to move out?

  15. Add gates to accommodate Delta and other Airlines to beef up competition. Now of course this wouldn’t please Southwest so it’s unlikely to be done.

    1. actually, Southwest would probably like that because the 20 gate cap is currently in place due to law. Southwest has chiseled away at restrictions over time. If they can breach the 20, even if it is only for DL today, it would be a step in the right direction for them to eventually let LUV grow to the 30+ gates that there is land for.

  16. In case no one has realized it, there is another possibility for Delta: Alliance. AFW is big enough for commercial air operations. I don’t know who else currently uses it but FedEx designated it a hub about 15 years ago. I understand that it is mostly used as a backup, overflow airport so I’m sure Delta would be welcome to build there and move its operations there.

    1. AFW is a terrible option. It is out in the middle of nowhere. 30+ minutes from DFW 60+ from DAL.

      AFW serves no one that would use DAL.

  17. the Dallas city counsel needs to fix the mess they made at DAL…it’s not Delta’s fault Southwest ended up with most all the gates….room needs to be made for all….if needed, the city needs to buy the United gates from Southwest for what was paid….Delta should be able to use those 2 gates as Virgin has 2 gates and the remainder belong to Southwest….my question is, what if another airline wants to start DAL service….is DAL a closed airport because all the gates are used, or does the city need to review the gates currently in use and make some changes or amend the document that only allows a certain number of gates….to have fair competition, you can’t limit the number of flights an airlines flies into a city like DAL….there is very little competition and the fare’s show it…look at the non-competitive city’s and see how the fare’s have gone up….only 6 cities have competition with Southwest, AUS, ATL, SFO, LAX, NYC and DCA…how can this be called a competitive market place….Virgin and Delta should be allowed more space to add flights to more cities if they want to, that would be competition….

  18. I don’t know where all these new gates at Love are going to come from unless the city builds a new concourse. If I remember correctly, when all this was going down a few years ago, the former Braniff concourse was torn down specifically to limit the number of possible gates. I can’t imagine all lthe parties that object to service at Love would ever let that happen. There’s also a significant number of litigious residents who deliberately bought or rented residences under the flight paths who wouild scream bloody murder at the thought of more “airport noise” (Love opened in the 1920s, so it was there long before any of the current residents moved in under it.)

  19. From the local Dallas perspective, the question is very simple.

    Will Southwest be allowed to have enough gates to provide effective competition to counter American’s “fortress” hub over at DFW?

    Or will Love just be another “spoke” on every airline’s network?

    A handful of flights to Atlanta, Houston, LAX and SFO do not provide much in the way of an alternative for the Dallas area business traveler.

    An argument could even be made that expanding access to allow Delta and United serve their other hubs doesn’t do all that much either. (it is just duplicating what is already available at DFW)

  20. Every comment above ignores a very important constituency — the folks who live around Love Field.

    Anyone who bought property between 1971 and 2006 did so on the premise that the airport’s operations would be capped due to the restrictions in place. When the elimination of the perimeter was becoming reality, some of the locals revolted because it would potentially double the noise and surface street traffic.

    Anyone who has followed the long-term saga at either SNA and LGB should understand why the City of Dallas pushed for the gate cap.

    The bottom line in this whole episode for me is that DL had over a decade to establish its own leasehold at DAL if they were really interested, and chose not to.

    In any business, it’s all about location. Why should DL be rewarded for not having bothered to secure a lease at DAL in advance?

    Had DL been part of what became the Five Party discussions, they could have lobbied for their own gate space before the cap was was codified in law. They could have approached either AA or UA for a permanent sublease, or even an outright lease transfer at any time between 2006 and 2014.

    They didn’t.

    And now it’s everyone else who has to accommodate their lack of preparedness?

    Sorry, no room at the inn, you’ll have to compete from DFW. If DAL and DFW were good enough to be considered the same market when the DOJ was evaluating it, then they’re still the same market today. They’re geographically closer than JFK & LGA are, and further apart than MDW & ORD are. Trying to argue they’re distinct is just self-serving and not consistent with every other major co-terminal market in the US….

  21. To a significant extent DL’s position is of DOJ’s making. The DOJ required the City of Dallas to sublease two AA DAL gates to VX, with part of the logic being that AA had offered a sublease to VX (at DOJ’s insistence, of course, as part of the AA/US merger approval), and that it was a valid sublease that the City should honor. We wondered at the time why SWA didn’t fight harder against DOJ’s apparent eviscerating of key terms of the Wright Amendment Reform Act of 2006 (“WARA”), which included (a) a limit of 16 SWA-leased gates and (b) a stipulation that any gates returned by a lessee airline would become common use gates under City control, and not be leased to another carrier. Technically, of course, a sublease is not the same as a lease, but the effect is the same and we expected SWA to fight harder on the issue. Now it seems reasonable to believe that SWA stayed relatively silent because the DOJ’s action set a precedent that would allow SWA to assume the lease of UA’s gates and effectively exceed the 16 gate cap SWA was forced to agree to under the WARA.

    Should DL be allowed to fly to DAL? At a normal airport, sure; but DAL is not a normal airport. Congress has been involved in its affairs since the 1979 Wright Amendment. Under the terms of the WARA, and of the Five Party Agreement (to which DL is not a party) that led to that law, DAL is capped at 20 gates, and the only airlines with an ironclad right to operate at DAL are the three then-incumbent carriers – SWA, AA and UA – all signatory to the Five Party Agreement and all with DAL leases at the time. DL argued, in the AA/VX case, that the AA gates needed to revert to common use, City control, but DOJ was determined to see VX get those gates, and in the process, probably unintentionally, set the sublease precedent that now leaves DL out to dry.

  22. In airports that are not slot restricted, gate space is usually the limiting factor. Find someone to sublease a gate from. Failing that you did not serve that airport. Contracts end, terms change, ownership changes hands all the time in business. Don’t rely on the government to bail you out when you can’t come to an agreement that fits your needs. Pack your bags and take your 5 ATL flights to DFW Delta. Anyone should be given gate? That is not the free market world we live in. United went to the one party they knew would pay the most for the finite amount of space available. Good business move on their part. The rest is just government interference and court created havoc. No wonder we don’t know which way it will go and everyone’s idea of what should happen are so far apart.

  23. Someone please do whatever is necessary to get us out from under the stranglehold that is WN and their lousy always-delayed never-ending string of mechanical issues flights! Please, someone, anyone!

  24. You all know that without WN there would be no DAL right now, right? How many jobs did they save and create at that airport over the years? To say they have no right to dominate DAL now after all they’ve done is just stupid. If they wouldn’t have stayed put this wouldn’t be a discussion as there would be no DAL.

  25. Legally any airport that has taken FAA improvement funds can not deny access to an airline wishing to serve the airport. This is the basic reason DL will win. Even though all gates are assigned to someone else, by law they have to allow access for DL to serve the airport. The main issue is that there’s nothing that says how much access an airline must be granted. If DAL controls even one gate they must give it to DL for use. If they control none, then they must either force a gate to be given up, or build one. Either is not an easy option.

    1. Sorry, I can’t agree. Can you define that law that would require DAL access for any airline that wants it? So Allegiant, Spirit, Frontier, Alaska, Southern Airways Express, et al., could just move in at will. Don’t think there’s a law that says that.

      1. Page 3 of the 5-party agreement, Par 3b says it all. “To the extent a new entrant carrier seeks to enter Love Field, the City of Dallas will seek voluntary accommodation from its existing carriers to accommodate the new entrant service. If the existing carriers are not able or are not willing to accommodate the new entrant service, then the City of Dallas agrees to require the sharing of preferential lease gates, pursuant to Dallas’ existing lease agreements”. From the beginning Southwest knew that it might have to share one of its 16 gates (now 18 gates) and the City of Dallas knew that it might have to require sharing of a gate. What is keeping both from doing what they agree to do? Now that these issues are in court anything can happen. If I were the court I would rule that at 11:59 PM some date Delta’s status would cease being a sublease and at 12:01 AM next date Delta would become a new entrant carrier and the City of Dallas would be require to honor their part of the agreement to require sharing of a gate.

  26. Personally, I’m fine with the 20 gate cap at DAL. I am not a big fan of complete airline dominance, however, so I do think that this arrangement could be okay:

    Southwest: 16 gates
    Delta: 2 gates
    Alaska: 2 gates

    Remember that the original conditions of the Wright Amendment called for Southwest to have 16 gates, Continental 2 gates, and American 2 gates.

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