PHOTO: An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 on the runway. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines)
If there were any expectations at all that Alaska Airlines would give up the two gates at Dallas’ Love Field it acquired in the Virgin America deal, think again.
Alaska has now technically joined the fray of one of the most competitive airport battles in the country when its president (and Virgin America CEO) Ben Minicucci told Bloomberg News: “We’re keeping both for sure. We love Love Field.”
Love Field has only 20 gates – two of them controlled by Virgin America and 18 of them controlled by Southwest Airlines, which doesn’t take kindly to interlopers. Southwest is currently involved in a federal lawsuit with Delta Air Lines, which operates five daily flights out of one of Southwest’s gates.
There’s a reason for Southwest’s near-fanatical devotion to Love Field. The airport is part of the airline’s culture – when the Wright Amendment was enacted in 1979, limiting long-haul flights out of Love Field in order to build up Dallas-Fort Worth International, Southwest was the only airline that remained at Love Field. It’s just one reason why the airline uses LUV as its stock ticker symbol.
READ MORE: Alaska Airlines To Retire Virgin America Brand in 2019
When Southwest successfully waged a long battle to have the restrictive Amendment finally lifted in 2014, albeit with a reduction from 32 gates to 20, others wanted in. Virgin America put up a very public campaign, including from then-owner Sir Richard Branson, to gain the two gates it has now.
That’s why there was speculation as to where those two gates might go after Alaska Airlines acquired VA last year, and then announced last month it would retire the Virgin America brand by 2019.
Minicucci put an end to that speculation with his pronouncement, and with good reason. Even though Alaska Airlines has a presence at Dallas-Fort Worth, business travelers prefer Love Field for its closer proximity to the city of Dallas.
Minicucci did say, however, that Alaska Airlines was not necessarily married to the five destinations that Virgin American currently flies – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington-Reagan National Airport and New York-LaGuardia