Sky Talk

Tidbits from Day 3 at the Love Field hearing

A large sculpture inspired by flight titled Sky hangs high in the Love Field terminal. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis)
A large sculpture inspired by flight titled Sky hangs high in the Love Field terminal. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis) Star-Telegram

The last day of testimony of a federal court hearing on whether Delta would be allowed to continue its 5 daily flights at Dallas Love Field yielded a few more interesting airline industry tidbits and of course, more Kinkeadisms.

-An internal Southwest document in 2007 showed that the airline had a goal of 14 turns per day and thought it could have 200 daily operations at 16 gates at Love Field post-Wright Amendment. However, the airline was only operating 137-seat Boeing 737-300s and 737-500s at the time. Southwest’s vice president of airport affairs Bob Montgomery said he rolled his eyes at those projections.

-Demand for the 180 daily Southwest flights after the lifting of the Wright Amendment restrictions has been unbelievable. “If there were unlimited gates and unlimited runways, I figure that number could be 400 to 500 flights a day,” Montgomery testified. Flights are operating with load factors in the high 80s, low 90s and on some days, Love Field flights are almost 100 percent full, he said.

-“Is the history when Southwest doesn’t get its way, we’re going to stomp our feet, write a letter and go do something else?” the judge asked when shown a letter from Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly where Kelly criticized the city for trying to force Southwest to accommodate Delta and said the company may move its capital investments elsewhere.

-Southwest put aviation expert Brian Campbell on the witness stand and his analysis of the North Texas aviation market was that 95 percent of residents are within 60 minutes of either Dallas Love Field or Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. With 18 of the 20 gates at Love Field, Southwest has 9.7 percent of the gates in North Texas while American Airlines has 68 percent with 126 gates out of 165 at DFW.

-This case may be far from over, regardless of how Kinkeade rules. “Do you anticipate a jury trial?” Kinkeade asked Delta attorney William Dawson before closing arguments. “Yes,” Dawson said. “I was afraid you were going to say that,” the judge said, adding he anticipates his ruling will be appealed to the 5th Circuit Court.

Last day of Kinkeadisms

-The judge reminisced about the old days of Southwest with Montgomery who has worked at the Dallas-based carrier since 1977. Kinkeade said he had an old Southwest pass that cost $15. “You could just run out to Love Field and jump on a plane.” And he remembered the hot pants. “A girl in our wedding was one of the first flight attendants and she wore those hot pants....those were the days.”

-As Montgomery stated his credentials on the witness stand, he mentioned in passing that he received a masters in theological studies at Ave Maria University in 2002. “We can’t just let that go by,” Kinkeade said. “You’re a Catholic. Are you going to be a priest or what? I just want to know what’s going on.” When Montgomery said he was active at his church and teaches several classes, Kinkeade asked, “Do you have any interest in becoming a Baptist?”

-When discussing the Justice Department’s Hart-Scott-Rodino review of Southwest’s sublease of United’s gates, Kinkeade asked if Southwest ever received a letter from the DOJ saying that it did not object to the sublease or ask for stipulations. The Southwest lawyer said no, since the DOJ simply lets the period when it can file a lawsuit objecting to the lease expire. Kinkeade expressed frustration with the federal government for never issuing HSR letters. “If I ever run for president, I will change that....maybe that’s one of the things I’ll ask when I get to heaven,” Kinkeade mused.

-He gave career advice to Dallas aviation director Mark Duebner, noting that Duebner has overseen several controversial public projects during his time as a city employee. “I’m not trying to advise you on your career, but you’re a valuable guy,” noting that the lawyers in the room are paid a lot to deal with issues like the Love Field gate problems. “Think about it...the city of Dallas is not the easiest place to work for.”

-A buffing competition between Kinkeade, Duebner and Southwest attorney Kent Krabill may be scheduled at a later date. Kinkeade complimented Duebner for installing new flooring at the Love Field terminal. “I want to thank you for replacing carpet with terazzo....that nasty blue carpet, it’s probably in some hazmat container,” Kinkeade said, which prompted him to ask Duebner if he ever used a buffer. Duebner said yes, he had when he worked at Kroger in his youth. “If you know what you’re doing you can do it with one hand....There are three doors at 1st Baptist Irving that I really messed up,” Kinkeade said. Krabill then piped up that “for the record” he had also used a buffer.

-Kinkeade also criticized local politicians and business leaders for crafting the Wright Amendment and subsequent compromise agreement. “It is the most constrained airport in the world....that’s because our politicians have made these really bad choices, really bad, that have put us into a position to not have a competitive market,” Kinkeade said. He went on to say, “Jim Wright jumped into the middle of this. I didn’t...In a competitive kind of world these things would have worked itself out, rather than being in here.”

-There was some debate about what a “new entrant” was in the Love Field lease terms and whether Delta qualifies as a new entrant. Montgomery didn’t think so and the judge knew which airline would qualify. “Baylor Airline would be a new entrant...clearly,” Kinkeade said. “They may expand out of Waco, I want you to know.”