Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings said he knew Southwest Airlines had paid United Airlines for the use of two Love Field gates but was unaware the payment was $120 million.
Rawlings took a few minutes after the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport board meeting on Thursday morning to talk about the federal court case where Delta Air Lines is asking to continue flying its five daily flights at Dallas Love Field even though it does not have any gate space.
Q: Is the city prepared for a protracted legal battle on the gate issue?
Rawlings: Yes. We just want it to be fair and make sure it’s in keeping with our contractual obligations to all parties involved. We will do whatever the judge wants us to.
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Q: If Delta is forced to stop flying at Love Field, how do you think that will affect Dallas travelers?
Rawlings: We’ve got Virgin [America] in there so we’ve got competition on that front. We want more competition all the time. I think American wants more competition. On the other hand, we’ve got the spirit and the letter of contracts. Both contracts with Southwest Airlines, both contracts with the Wright Amendment. We’ve got rules in place that we’re going to live by. The question is the intepretation of those rules and that’s why the judge’s point of view is very important here.
Q: Were you aware that Southwest paid United $120 million to use two gates at Love Field?
Rawlings: I had not heard the exact number but I knew they did and that’s a legal issue that the judge is working on so I’ll leave it at that. I shouldn’t be jumping in and advising the judge on that...Obviously there is a lot of value in those gates but remember we have an obligation to the City of Fort Worth and we’ve got an obligation to DFW in this whole process as well.
Q: Were you surprised by how quickly passenger traffic has grown at Love Field after the lifting of the Wright Amendment restrictions?
Rawlings: No, I’m not. What I’m really pleased about is it’s not cannibalized traffic here at DFW. It shows you the robustness of this marketplace and the fact that we’ve got two airports doing as well just shows you the constant growth there. When you give customers options, they like them and that usually increases usage and not cannibalizes.
Q: There are currently operating time restrictions at Love Field where flights can’t take off after 11 p.m. or before 6 a.m. If that time period was expanded, more flights could be operated on the limited 20 gates. Would you consider expanding the operating time?
Rawlings: It’s not something I would support. I think we’ve got a good situation right now. We’ve been working on noise through different programs with the FAA and working with Southwest. We’ve really kind of minimized those now...We’ve got a good business operation with the plan that is in place right now and I think the status quo is a healthy thing for us and I like that.