It's official: the city of Dallas has agreed to let Virgin America move into Love Field.
"After consideration of a number of factors, the City of Dallas has provided its consent to the sub-lease to Virgin America requested by American Airlines," City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said in a statement released Monday afternoon.
American's sub-lease of two Love Field gates was mandated by the Justice Department as part of an antitrust settlement. Southwest Airlines and Delta had also been vying for the gates, but their chances seemed to wither when American and Virgin reached a deal, which was approved by the Justice Department last month.
At Dallas City Hall, however, appearances can be deceiving. Rather than simply sign off on the deal, as the majority of people not on Southwest Airlines' payroll think he should have done, Gonzalez balked. The city commissioned a study that reached the perplexing conclusion that hometown Southwest, which currently controls 16 of Love Field's 20 gates, would do a better job of increasing competition than Virgin. He sought the input of a City Council committee, then the full City Council. He announced and then missed a Friday deadline for a decision, even though WFAA was reporting as early as Thursday night that he'd made up his mind.
Virgin CEO Richard Branson, meanwhile, was doing tequila shots at The Rustic and making weird double entendres.
In his statement, Gonzalez portrays the delay as a proper exercise of due diligence rather than, oh I dunno, a trial balloon to see if Dallas travelers would riot if Southwest was installed as their all-powerful Love Field overlord.
Contrary to reports, this was not a competition. While initially, The City was told to expect a collaborative process, the Justice Department eventually required American Airlines to sub-lease the Love Field gates to a chosen airline. The City was presented with the sub-lease.
Rather than simply signing the sub-lease presented to us, we took some additional time to make sure our actions would be responsible and capture the vision of the Justice Department's selected carrier. This was accomplished by incorporating Virgin's publicly stated intentions into a compliance agreement. The major elements are:
- Commits Virgin to the standards included in the City's noise abatement program - Clarifies and expands how any unused gate space might be made accessible to other airlines - Protects the City from possible legal expense through an indemnification clause
I appreciate the airline carriers who showed interest in the two gates. We are excited about how the lifting of some Wright Amendment restrictions will expand opportunities and choices for Dallas residents and the traveling public. We look forward to working with Virgin America and welcome them to Dallas Love Field.
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Mayor Mike Rawlings chimed in with a statement of his own:
I applaud Mr. Gonzalez for his thorough approach to making this important decision. I support his approval of the sublease between American Airlines and Virgin America because it is best for the citizens of Dallas. I look forward to welcoming Virgin America to Love Field Airport with open arms.
Yes. Open arms. That's what those were.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.