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Political Turbulence Over Future Of 2 Gates At Dallas Love Field

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jack Fink
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – The stakes are high and seem to be increasing in the battle over two gates at Dallas Love Field Airport.

On Monday, top executives from three airlines attended the City Council’s Transportation and Trinity River Project Committee meeting at Dallas City Hall, where council members received a briefing on the gates that Southwest Airlines, Virgin America, and Delta Airlines all want.

The gates are now leased by American Airlines.

But as part of its deal to merge with US Airways, the U.S. Justice Department ordered American to give up the two gates, and sub-lease them to Virgin America.

The Justice Department favors Virgin America’s use of the gates over Southwest and Delta, believing the San Francisco-based carrier will spur competition and lower airfares.

A city consultant though recommends that the hometown airline, Southwest, get use of the gates — believing it will maximize the number of local passengers and the potential for lower airfares.

The question now is, who has final say over which airline gets to use the two gates? The answer isn’t clear.

In an interview Monday morning, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told CBS 11’s Jack Fink that the city should have final say over the Justice Department.

“I don’t think there’s any question, it’s the city everyone agrees the city owns the airport and the city is the one that has the contract on the gates and the city will decide.”

David Cush, Virgin America’s CEO attended the council committee briefing Monday afternoon.

After receiving an update, members of the committee went into closed session and didn’t comment publically afterwards.

On May 7, the full city council will be briefed on the matter and will give direction to Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez, on what to do about the gates.

Cush told me, “It’s unfortunate in my opinion that it’s come to this.”

He said Virgin America is in the process of sub-leasing the gates from American so it can move its flights from DFW International Airport to Love Field in October.

Cush said years ago, the city allowed American to sub-lease its gates without any input from city council.  “There shouldn’t be anything different. The lease is very clear. The lease American has requires the city manager consent, which cannot unreasonably be withheld.”

During the briefing, the city’s aviation director, Mark Duebner, said after having discussions with the Justice Department and American early on, he thought the city would be more involved in the process, and as a result hired the consultant to study the future use of the gates.

Nearly two weeks ago, the city found out about the deal between American and Virgin America.

An executive from Delta airlines, Holden Shannon, a Senior VP of Real Estate also attended the briefing. He said, “There’s enough gate capacity to allow each of the carriers broader service. “

But the Justice Department already told Delta that it couldn’t use the gates.

On Monday, the Justice Department didn’t respond to my email seeking comment.

(©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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