By law there are only 20 gates at Dallas Love Field. There used to be 32, but 12 were ordered eliminated. That was all part of a deal that,
- Lifted Wright Amendment restrictions on where flights could go from the airport
- Limited competition for American Airlines flights out of Dallas – Fort Worth
- And gave Southwest Airlines a stranglehold on the smaller airport
Out of the airport’s 20 gates,
- Southwest Airlines leased 16
- United Airlines leased two. Delta was using one of those gates. But United got a better deal leasing them to Southwest, giving the Dallas-based carrier control of 18 gates
- American Airlines had two gates, but gave them up as a condition of government-approval for their US Airways merger. The gates went to Virgin America, and are now controlled by Alaska Airlines which acquired Virgin.
All of this left Southwest with 18 gates, Alaska with 2, and Delta without a gate in the game of musical airport chairs. However the Department of Transportation said that the City of Dallas had to continue to accommodate Delta at Love Field even though it had no gates to do so, couldn’t legally build more, and Southwest had a valid lease for the gate Delta was using.
The FAA threated to issue a determination that the City of Dallas was in noncompliance with its Federal grant obligations in the operation of Dallas Love Field, making them ineligible for FAA grant funds.
Everyone wound up in Court. Just for kicks, American Airlines got involved to say they wanted gates at Love Field, too! (They didn’t really, they were basically trolling.) In the meantime Delta squatted on a Love Field gate half the time.
After seven years there’s finally a settlement.
- Alaska Airlines doesn’t actually want to use two gates at Love Field
- So Delta will use one of them
- And the City of Dallas will kick in $200,000 a year to lease the gate for Delta through 2028
Delta used to at least pretend to be against government subsidies for the airline industry, now they are vocally in favor.
None of this would have been an issue if the federal government hadn’t limited the number of gates at Love Field, helping to cartelize the airport, and if the city hadn’t destroyed gates there would have been a greater chance of redress through Congress.