How important is Love Field in Dallas to Southwest Airlines?
The carrier is willing to pay top dollar to its attorneys to go to court over it, that's how important.
Southwest last week filed documents in federal court asking that a letter written by U.S. Transportation Department General Counsel Kathryn Thomson - virtually ensuring that any carrier already in business at Love Field can remain in business - be thrown out.
Southwest controls 18 of the 20 gates at Love Field - Virgin America has the other two - sharing two of them with Delta Air Lines in an agreement that was supposed to expire on July 6. The sharing deal was part of an original agreement between Delta and United; United gave up the Love Field gates to move all its flights to Dallas-Fort Worth. Southwest won the rights for the two United gates and agreed to honor the deal through July 6.
But in Thomson's letter to Dallas City Attorney Warren Ernst, she wrote that "Ensuring that Federally-assisted airports make reasonable accommodations for requesting carriers, whether new entrants or other carrier seeking expansion, and maximize the utilization of their existing resources, especially at gate-constrained airports like DAL, are important objectives for the Department of Transportation."
In effect, the letter said Delta can keep flying out of Love Field from the shared gates as long as it continues to operate its flights.
No way, says Southwest.
The airline's petition in federal court cites the letter as "arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with law."
Southwest has had a stronghold on Love Field ever since the December expiration of the Wright Amendment, which severely limited the number of flights out of the airport. Virgin America waged an expensive public relations battle just to win the two games it earned at Love.
There is certainly a method to Southwest's madness, however. In earning the right to the majority of gates at Love Field, Southwest is the only airline that cannot also operate out of DFW while it continues to fly out of Love Field.
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