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Virgin America Announces Low Fares In Hopes Of Love Field Move

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UPDATE on April 26: A consultant for the City of Dallas will recommend to city leaders at a meeting on Monday that Southwest Airlines should use the two gates that American Airlines will give up at Dallas Love Field, according to new documents unearthed by CBS 11 News.

The recommendation was found in the upcoming presentation for the Transportation & Trinity River Project Committee, in which the consultant argues that Southwest is a better choice than Virgin America and Delta, who also want the gates.

The consultant believes that because Southwest will use the gates more frequently and offer more non-stop destinations than the other airlines, DFW will receive more passenger traffic. The consultant calls Southwest “the most attractive option for the City of Dallas.”

Southwest Airlines gave this statement to CBS 11 News regarding the consultant’s recommendation:

“We appreciate the opportunity afforded by the City Council to show how the Southwest plan is best for Customers, Employees, local businesses, and the City of Dallas as a whole.  We look forward to offering a flight schedule this October that our Dallas Customers have long deserved.”

The consultant’s recommendation for Southwest Airlines is far different than the Department of Justice’s view.

As part of its deal to merge with USAirways, American Airlines had to give up the two gates it leases at Love Field. American said Friday that the DOJ would only allow Virgin America to sublease the two gates, and Virgin America says it has already signed an agreement with American.

The DOJ believes Virgin America would provide consumers more competition and lower airfares than if Southwest or Delta used the two gates.

Monday’s Transportation & Trinity River Project Committee meeting is expected to give the city manager direction on the issue. Although, the city’s hands may be tied on this, unless it asks the government to reconsider.

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Taking his cue from a watercannon spraying a Virgin America Airbus A320, CEO David Cush said, “We like to make a little bit of a splash.”

Cush, a former American Airlines executive made a splash Friday morning at Dallas Love Field — Southwest Airlines’ home turf — without any officials from the city, which owns the airport.

Starting in October, when flight restrictions known as the Wright Amendment end at the airport, Virgin America said it’ll move its flights from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Love Field and offer nonstop service to Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York LaGuardia, and Washington Reagan, then add Chicago O’Hare next year.

Using the plane as a prop, Cush said Virgin America is offering a $79 one-way fare as long as the tickets are booked by 11:59 p.m. Saturday. “Even when this special fare passes this weekend, regular fares will be 30- to 50-percent below what you get in these non-stop markets.”

Alex Williams of the Internet site farecompare.com says the fares are impressive.  “That’s definitely a deal, that’s a steal.”

Williams said Virgin America’s flights will lower fares by giving travelers more options.  “If there’s four planes all leaving the same time, those are going to be cheaper, where as all the other times where it’s one or two carriers, those times and routes are going to be more expensive.”

Virgin America officials say they have the required approval from the Justice Department to use American Airlines’ two gates at Love Field.

As part of its deal to merge with US Airways, American Airlines agreed to give up the two gates it leases, but hasn’t used at the Dallas airport. A federal judge granted American final approval for its merger Friday.

According to American, the Justice Department would only allow Virgin America to use the gates. So American says it began negotiating with Virgin America.
American says that process is continuing, but Virgin America said it was complete. But before any changes can be made, the city manager must also approve any deal.

In addition to Virgin America, Delta and Southwest Airlines also expressed interest in the two gates. But the Justice Department previously told Delta it wouldn’t approve their request.

Southwest though, which already has use of 16 of the airport’s 20 gates, is still hoping to win the use of American’s gates.

City councilman Lee Kleinman is the vice-chairman of the Transportation & Trinity River Project Committee, which will meet Monday to give the city manager direction on this issue.

“There’s no question Southwest is the hometown hero. They’ve dedicated themselves to this city; they’ve spent a lot of time and effort making this airport successful as a partner with the city of Dallas. We also have to look at what’s important to the citizens of Dallas and I feel part of that is competition.”

Virgin America’s board chairman Don Carty says he’s confident they’ll get city approval.  “We don’t think this is premature.”

The Justice Department declined comment Friday afternoon.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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