Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Delta threatens legal action against city


File 2013/Special Contributor
Delta’s attorney says the carrier is being unfairly squeezed out at Love Field, where it has operated since 2008.

An attorney for Delta Air Lines Inc. threatened to sue the city of Dallas unless it takes “immediate action to implement a short-term solution” that keeps the Atlanta-based airline flying from Dallas Love Field.In a nine-page letter to Dallas aviation director Mark Duebner, attorney Kenneth Quinn demanded that the city find room for Delta, which has been flying from Love Field since 2008. It flies five daily nonstops to Atlanta and had planned to add more flights after the Wright amendment expires Oct. 13.

Earlier this week, the city told Delta that it would have to leave Love Field come Oct. 13 because there was no space to accommodate it.

The new Love Field has 20 gates, 16 of which are being used by Southwest Airlines. Two others will be used by Virgin America beginning Oct. 13, and the final two are leased by United Airlines. United is subleasing one to Southwest and has told the city it will use the second to increase its flights to Houston next year.

In his letter, Quinn said Delta was under the impression “as recently as last week” that the city “had notified United by letter that it must accommodate Delta on its gates.”

Instead, United handed over one of its gates to Dallas-based Southwest, which had been looking to add to its gates at the city-owned airport.

Delta also said United was not playing fair with its second gate. While the airline is doubling its flights to Houston, it’s also going to “triple its aircraft ground times in an effort to preclude Delta from using its gates,” Quinn said.

In his letter to Duebner, Quinn included a copy of United’s proposed service levels in 2015, showing that each plane will spend about 90 minutes on the ground, which is three times longer than its planes spend on the ground now.

“It is simply not true, as the city would have it, that there is no room at the inn for Delta,” Quinn said in his letter. “The truth is, the city decided the available gate space should go to hometown favorite Southwest — which already controls 80 percent of the gates at Love Field — instead of to Delta, which would have used the gate space to compete with Southwest.”

Duebner, First Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans and City Attorney Warren Ernst did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Earlier this week, City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said, “We understand that while the situation we’re looking at is subject to some disagreement, we are going to maintain our view that we want full utilization and robust competition for Love Field.”

Quinn said that at the minimum, Delta wants the city to let it keep flying out of Love Field until January, if only to accommodate the 16,000 passengers who have already purchased tickets out of the airport. But it also wants to stay in Dallas. Anything less, writes Quinn, will probably wind up with a trip to the courthouse.

“Although we are hopeful that the city will accommodate Delta’s request,” he writes, “these attempts to resolve this matter will not preclude Delta from seeking additional relief at law or in equity.”
Delta also had asked Virgin America to find space for Delta’s flights at Virgin’s two gates. Virgin America chief executive David Cush said his carrier turned down Delta’s request.

“Our answer is: We’re fully utilizing our gates,” Cush said this week.

Virgin America will move its operations from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Love Field on Oct. 13, the day that federal law will allow nonstop service from Dallas to any U.S. airport. It begins operations with nine departures a day, going to 13 departures Oct. 28 and 16 departures in April.

Virgin America is allowing tiny carrier SeaPort Airlines to use its gates for two daily departures for El Dorado, Ark.

“We’ll accommodate them as long as we can. We’ll see how long it is,” Cush said.

“But certainly with 16 flights, we can accommodate them. With 18, it’ll be a little trickier,” he said. “But you know, they wanted two flights a day. They didn’t want the pattern of service that Delta was looking for.”


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