Saturday, April 20, 2019

Southwest CEO calls Delta 'squatters' at Dallas Love Field

Southwest Airlines Chairman and Chief Executive Gary Kelly made his dislike for Delta Air Lines' presence at Dallas Love Field clear Thursday, comparing the Atlanta carrier to a squatter.

Southwest Airlines Co., Delta Air Lines and the City of Dallas have been wrangled in a lawsuit over Delta using Southwest gate space at Love Field for years. Southwest has been trying to get Delta off its gate, while Delta has refused to leave and instead requested eight additional flights out of Love Field.

"It’s like you having rented a house, and there’s a squatter in the house and you’ve got to get them out," Kelly told an audience at a North Dallas Chamber of Commerce event Thursday. "It’s really no more complicated than that."

This ordeal began years ago when Southwest reached a temporary agreement with Delta to fly five daily flights to Atlanta. But when the agreement ended, Delta didn't leave.

Southwest asked Dallas, which owns the airport, to get Delta off its gate. Fearing retaliation from whichever side ended up losing the disagreement, the city sued all parties involved and asked the court to decide what to do.

Nearly four years after the issue entered the courts, Delta is still flying its five daily flights out of the Southwest gate and said without court intervention, "Love Field will become Southwest Field."

"Only long term, meaningful competition provides the best options and fares for the citizens of Dallas," a Delta spokesperson said in response to Kelly's comments. "And to that end, we are pursuing our right to continue flying out of Love Field."

The lawsuit has taken several twists and turns since it started.

The court is mulling a proposal from the city that would force accommodation of Delta's requested eight additional flights on two Alaska Airlines, gates it says are being underutilized.

Unsurprisingly, Alaska isn't keen on the proposal. A few weeks after the city suggested the plan, Alaska announced a surprise expansion at Love Field that left no gate space available for Delta.

Southwest recently ramped up operations at Love Field and now flies 195 flights across its 18 gates. When Southwest announced the expansion, it said at the time it would add even more flights if not for the squabble with Delta.

"We are at capacity at Love Field," Kelly said Thursday. "We have 17 and a half gates that we're operating out of. It should be 18, if I didn't mention that earlier. It should be 18."

(Evan Hoopfer - Dallas Business Journal)

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