City Hall

Dallas Still Trying to Decide Whether to Meddle With Virgin's Love Field Deal

The exciting part of the Virgin/Southwest/Delta feud for America Airlines' two up-for-grabs gates at Love Field (i.e. Richard Branson crowd-surfing and doing tequila shots at The Rustic) is over.

Today was the excruciatingly boring part when the Dallas City Council spent a couple of hours debating who it thinks should get the gates.

Two things made today's briefing especially boring. One, most of it happened behind closed doors in executive session, which Councilman Dwaine Caraway immediately afterward described as "fruitful" while, with no apparent sense of irony, he praised City Manager A.C. Gonzalez for the transparency of the process.

Councilman Philip Kingston tried to avert the executive session by moving to have the discussion postponed indefinitely, but he was basically ignored by Mayor Mike Rawlings.

"The bright side," he quipped on Facebook, "is that I got a nice nap."

Second, the City Council doesn't -- and shouldn't -- really have a say in the matter. The two gates are currently held by American Airlines, which last month agreed to transfer them to Virgin America as part of an antitrust settlement with the federal government. Under American's agreement with the city of Dallas, it has the right to sublet the gates to whomever it pleases, provided Gonzalez gives his approval.

The Justice Department reminded Gonzalez of this, and its opinion that giving the gates to Southwest as city-hired consultants have recommended would give them 90 percent of the gates at Love Field and thus be bad for competition, in a letter on Tuesday.

Then what does the council have to talk about? Council members seemed divided over whether or not they should have a role.

Vonciel Hill suggested that, while she herself has not made up her mind, she thinks the council should have a role: "My opinion is that the city of Dallas is the landlord and that the city of Dallas as the landlord has the final call, whatever the call may be."

Kingston and Scott Griggs both said the council should stay out and that Gonzalez should approve the Virgin deal. Any attempt to meddle in negotiations is likely to wind up with the city on the losing end of a legal battle, a la flow control.

Rawlings, among others, made a special point to say that the decision is 100 percent Gonzalez's.

"I will be backing you, A.C., with whatever decision you make," he said.

Gonzlez promised to deliver an answer by Friday.

All that time spent in executive session? They must simply have been celebrating.

"We should be doing high fives!" Rawlings told his colleagues afterward. "Congratulations to the city of Dallas. We're growing, we've got hot properties, we've got Virgin Air in here wanting to do business with us, we've got Delta wanting to do business with us, we've got Southwest wanting to grow. This is great!"

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson

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