Virgin America said it plans to bid on the two gates at Dallas Love Field that American Airlines is required to divest as part of its merger agreement with US Airways.
If it wins the gates, Virgin America said it will offer daily nonstop flights to New York's LaGuardia airport, Washington D.C.'s Reagan National airport, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago O'Hare airport.
The San Francisco-based carrier is 25 percent owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and has been operating flights at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to Los Angeles and San Francisco since 2010.
It says it will move its operations from DFW to Love Field in October 2014, if it wins the gates. When it first initiated service at DFW, the airport offered Virgin America $2 million in marketing cash and landing fee rebates.
Virgin America already received four take-off and landing slot pairs at Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport and twelve slot pairs at LaGuardia that American gave up for approval of its merger.
"The opportunity to expand our low-fare, upscale service in Dallas, allows us to not only spur fare competition for local consumers, but also provide business travelers with more choice and consistent flight options, so they can stay connected, comfortable and productive on these longer-haul flights," said Virgin America chief executive David Cush in a statement.
The carrier plans to run four daily roundtrips to LaGuardia, four daily roundtrips to Washington Reagan, three daily roundtrips to Los Angeles and three daily roundtrips to San Francisco. In 2015, Virgin America said it plans to add another daily roundtrip on its Los Angeles and San Francisco routes and add two daily rountrips to Chicago O’Hare.
Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, who both currently operate out of Love Field, have also expressed interest in the gates.
"Unlike other airlines, including Delta and Virgin America, Southwest's only opportunity to expand service in North Texas is at Love Field due to restrictions in the compromise that led to the partial repeal of the Wright Amendment," said Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins. "Southwest will actively participate in the process of re-allocating American's gates at Love Field."
Delta currently leases the American gates to operate regional jet service to Atlanta. After the Wright Amendment restrictions are lifted in October, Delta hopes to use the gates to fly to New York LaGuardia, Los Angeles, Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
American initiated service at Love Field in 2006 when Cush was American’s general sales manager. At an event to show of its operations at Love Field shortly before the first flight, Cush admitted American “will have a difficult time making a profit” with its new service.
The airline pulled out in 2009 as it struggled to attract customers away from Southwest Airlines, which dominates passenger traffic at Love Field. The airport is currently renovating its terminal which is limited to 20 gates as part of the Wright Amendment compromise. Southwest controls 16 of those gates.
When the merger settlement agreement was announced last November, the Justice Department said it is interested in having other low-cost carriers such as JetBlue Airways or Spirit Airlines obtain gates that are divested as part of the settlement and not legacy carriers, like Delta and United Airlines.