April 25, 2014

Virgin America: Love Field deal reached

The San Francisco-based airline says the agreement with American Airlines still needs approval from Dallas.

Virgin America has signed an agreement with American Airlines to obtain two gates at Dallas Love Field and is already selling tickets for flights from the airport.

The San Francisco-based carrier said the agreement still needs to be approved by the Dallas city manager’s office. Virgin America plans to operate 18 flights a day to New York LaGuardia, Washington Reagan, Los Angeles and San Francisco airports starting Oct. 13.

“Consumers are the winner,” Virgin America Chairman Don Carty said. “This is a big state. There is room for a little healthy competition at Love.”

The carrier launched a fare sale Friday, offering fares for $79 on the new routes. For every Love Field flight booked Friday, the airline is donating $20 to the Knowledge Is Power Program’s Dallas-Fort Worth College Preparatory Public Schools.

CEO David Cush said the airline will cease flights at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport in mid-October. It has six daily flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles from DFW but believes that it will be more successful serving business customers in downtown Dallas.

Cush said most of the airline’s current customers are from the east side of the Metroplex, and he expects the airline to lose its Tarrant County customers once it ends operations at DFW.

“We love the demographics of Dallas and in particular the demographics that surround Love Field,” he said. “It has always been an attractive airport.”

The gate agreement with American has been approved by the Justice Department. Cush said he expects approval from Dallas to be routine, because the city has approved other sublease transactions without public hearings.

In an online posting Friday, the city said “no decisions have been made regarding carriers operating out of 2 Love Field gates.” It said the transportation committee “will be briefed Monday.”

As part of its settlement with the Justice Department to gain approval for its merger with US Airways, American had to give up takeoff and landing slots and gates at several airports nationwide. In a statement, American said the process is ongoing for the Love Field gates.

“The DOJ approved one airline to acquire the gates at Love Field, and we are working on a sub-lease agreement with Virgin America. We are very respectful of the rights the City of Dallas has in this process,” the company said.

Southwest Airlines, which has expressed interest in the two gates, said it plans to discuss its position with the City Council.

“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 Dallas-based carrier said Friday.

Delta Air Lines leases gates from American and operates flights to Atlanta with small regional planes. It has wanted to obtain those gates permanently and is already selling tickets for flights to several new cities that will operate as soon as Wright Amendment restrictions expire in October.

“The city of Dallas is best positioned to decide the future of these two gates based on what is best for the citizens and businesses of Dallas,” Delta said in a statement Thursday. “Delta remains committed to serving Dallas Love Field Airport and DFW Airport in the months and years ahead.”

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