Southwest to seek Love Field gates: Kelly

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Southwest Airlines plans to seek additional gates at Dallas Love Field, as it prepares to launch new long-haul services from the airport in 2014.

The Dallas-based based low-fare carrier would be “crazy” not to seek two gates at Love Field that American Airlines will divest in 2014, its chairman and chief executive Gary Kelly tells Flightglobal on the sidelines of the Wings Club monthly luncheon in New York today.

“Now we have an opportunity to do more and we’re [very] interested in doing that,” he says.

Southwest controls 16 of Love Field’s 20 gates.

Asked whether he thinks Southwest will be awarded the gates despite its dominance at the airport, Kelly says: “The DOJ considers Dallas as a metroplex… two measly gates are not going to make much difference to the metroplex.”

Dallas is also served by Dallas-Fort Worth International airport, which is home to American’s largest hub.

Fort Worth, Texas-based American is divesting the two gates under an agreement that it reached with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in exchange for antitrust approval of its merger with US Airways, which closed on 9 December.

The number of gates at Love Field was capped at 20 under a compromise that lifts the Wright Amendment in October 2014. The amendment limits flights from the airport to those within Texas, to its neighbouring states as well as Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi and Missouri.

Delta Air Lines and Virgin America have also expressed interest in the gates.

Kelly doubts that Delta will receive the gates, noting how the DOJ specifically stated that the assets divested by American and US Airways are meant for low-cost carriers. “Obviously, that’s not Delta,” he says.

The city of Dallas, which operates Love Field, has control over who receives the gates.

Dallas has repeatedly declined to comment on its plans for the gates.

Southwest plans to add long-haul flights from Love Field, regardless of whether it secures additional space at the airport.

“I assure you that we will announce long-haul out of Dallas,” says Kelly on Southwest’s plans when the Wright Amendment is lifted. He says that New York LaGuardia, where the airline secured 12 additional slot pairs from American and US Airways earlier in December, will “eventually, if not immediately” be a route from Love Field.

The new Love Field flights will be announced during the first quarter of 2014, he says.