The process to approve the Department of Justice's decision to award the open gates at Dallas Love Field to Virgin America could have been an easy one. And, in most cities, it probably would have been. But Dallas loves making mountains out of mole hills, and thus the city's perfunctory signing-off on a deal is cause for a principled stand.
What those principles are, exactly, isn't clear. But hell if the City of Dallas is going to welcome Virgin America with open arms. Instead, it is clinging to Southwest Airlines, which already controls 16 of the 20 gates at Dallas Love Field. Two more couldn't hurt, right?
Virgin America begs to differ. Following the April 28 transportation committee meeting in which LEK Consulting enthusiastically endorsed Southwest, Virgin released a statement, calling the study "fundamentally flawed":
The study asserts that new job creation and more fare competition for Dallas consumers are less important considerations than other criteria. The study claims Southwest and Virgin America would have the same impact on lowering fares — ignoring the monopoly position Southwest holds at Love. The study evaluates the three proposed airline schedules in a vacuum, not acknowledging that these are two gates in a 20-gate airport, of which Southwest controls 16 already.
LEK's glowing recommendation of Southwest doesn't square with the DOJ's decision to award Virgin the two open gates, and the city feels like it is stuck in the middle. The transportation committee has punted to the City Council for another briefing.
Meanwhile, Virgin is throwing around phrases like "legal precedent" and pointing out that when American Airlines previously subleased gates at Love Field, the agreement was approved without ever going before the City Council.
"Virgin America was designated by the DOJ for the award of these gates. Southwest’s and Delta’s bids were rejected by DOJ, given that Southwest would be consolidating its own monopoly and that Delta is not a low-fare airline and would not add much new service," the statement reads. "American’s lease agreement gives American the right to sublease its gates to 'any party' and requires the city to not 'unreasonably withhold or delay' approval of any sublease."
Virgin has already begun selling tickets for its new routes out of Love Field, which are scheduled to take off in October.