DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – For travelers at Dallas Love Field, a lot is at stake: Competition and the airfares you pay. Why else would the CEO’s of both Southwest Airlines and Virgin America attend Wednesday’s Dallas city council briefing?
Council members heard that those two carriers plus Delta Airlines all want the use of two gates that American Airlines must give up.
Come Friday, the Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez says he will make a decision on which airline can use the gates in question.
Mayor Mike Rawlings couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for the situation the city finds itself in. “We should be doing high fives. Congratulations to the city of Dallas.”
The fight over the gates is intense… even at city hall.
Council member Philip Kingston wanted to end the gate briefing before the Mayor called for a closed executive session. Mayor Rawlings told him, “You will be the first person to speak when we come back.” Council member Kingston responded, “Yeah, but my motion was to postpone this indefinitely, so it doesn’t do me a lot of good Mr. Mayor.”
Even though the city manager must approve which airline can use the gates, council member Kingston believes it’s not the city’s decision and called it a “profound waste of the council’s time.” That’s because the U.S. Justice Department told the city that Virgin America is the only airline allowed to use the gates.
The Justice Department is requiring American to give up the gates as part of its deal to merge with US Airways.
Southwest and Delta have also lobbied for the gates. But the feds warned the city it will reject any attempt to have those two airlines use them.
Council member Vonciel Jones Hill wasn’t impressed. “I do not believe that is dictated to anyone other than this council,” she said.
Surrounded by employees, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly agreed. “Other parties have made their opinions and feelings known and now it’s up to the city of Dallas which is the landlord and owner of the airport to decide what to do.”
Virgin America CEO David Cush says the city knows where his airline stands. When asked if his airline would sue the city if it doesn’t get to use the gates, Cush smiled and said, “We’re highly confident we will get the gates.”
Airline industry experts have said Virgin America, and possibly the Justice Department, would have a strong case to sue the city if Virgin America can’t use the gates.
A Delta Airlines spokesman didn’t return our call.