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American must give up two gates at Love Field as part of settlement

American Airlines’ tenuous tenure at Dallas Love Field is coming to an end.

As part of the settlement between the Justice Department and American and US Airways, American must give up the two gates that it leases at Love Field.

But American doesn’t use the gates.

Instead, it subleases them to Delta Air Lines, which operates regional jet service to Atlanta from Love Field.

American initiated service at Love Field in 2006 as part of the Wright Amendment compromise but pulled out in 2009 as the airline struggled to attract customers away from Southwest Airlines, which dominates passenger traffic at the airport, where it’s based.

“We haven’t been using them because we have viewed our assets as being better utilized here at this enormous global connecting hub at DFW,” American Chief Executive Tom Horton said.

“It’s just where we create the most value.”

Love Field is undergoing a renovation of its terminal, which is limited to 20 gates as part of the compromise.

Southwest Airlines controls 16 of those gates.

U.S Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer said the Love Field divestitures will open the airport to more low-cost competition.

He acknowledged that American is still the dominant carrier at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport but added that with the Wright Amendment restrictions going away in October 2014, it made sense to require gate divestitures at Love.

“At DFW, it’s not all that hard to get gates and they aren’t slot-constrained, so you know that would be fleas off a vest to get gate divestitures at DFW, whereas getting these gate divestitures at Love are quite meaningful,” Baer said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

Baer said the Justice Department is interested in having other low-cost carriers such as JetBlue Airways or Spirit Airlines obtain gates that are divested as part of the settlement.