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Southwest Airlines continues legal battle against Delta for Love Field gates

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The legal battle for gate space at Dallas Love Field continued this week.

In a court filing made to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Southwest Airlines refuted arguments made by Delta Air Lines that it was unlawfully trying to prevent the airline from using a gate for five flights out of Dallas Love Field.

“Southwest has never sought to “evict” Delta from Love Field. Rather, it seeks to protect the preferred leasehold rights to Love Field gates that it lawfully obtained,” the court filing said. “In contrast, Delta seeks both to ‘squat’ on Southwest’s preferential use leases indefinitely, and to ask the federal courts to rewrite those leases to favor Delta.”

At issue is gate space at Love Field, which is limited to 20 gates by the Wright Amendment Reform Act, which ended restrictions on long-haul flights from the airport in 2014. Delta had been leasing gate space from United Airlines until the end of 2014, when United transferred its leases on two gates to Southwest for $120 million. The other two gates at Love Field are used by Virgin America, which recently announced its merger with Alaska Airlines.

Southwest and Delta had a temporary agreement allowing Delta to fly its five daily flights to Atlanta through last summer, but Southwest planned to kick Delta out after that so it could use the gates for new flights. With both airlines claiming rights to gate space, the city of Dallas filed a lawsuit, asking the court to decide who should use the gates.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade granted a temporary injunction in January in Delta’s favor, allowing it to continue operations while the court case continues as Southwest appeals the case.

Earlier this month, Delta filed a brief with the appeals court asking it to uphold the injunction, writing that oral arguments were unnecessary in the case.

“The injunction is faithful to the City’s federal obligation to ensure that new entrants such as Delta can access Love Field,” Delta’s filing said. “If it did not, accommodation at Love Field would be nothing more than an empty promise.”

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk