Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Alaska Will Keep Gates at Dallas Airport Dominated by Southwest

Alaska Air Group Inc. will keep flying from two gates it recently acquired at the secondary Dallas airport, retaining a foothold in a hub dominated by discount powerhouse Southwest Airlines Co.

Virgin America, which Alaska bought last year, offers nonstop flights to five cities from Dallas Love Field, which is popular with business travelers because of its proximity to downtown. Alaska already serves Portland and Seattle from the larger Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, a hub dominated by American Airlines Group Inc.

“We’re keeping both for sure. We love Love Field,” Ben Minicucci, Alaska’s president and Virgin America’s chief executive officer, said in an interview Wednesday.

By retaining a presence at Love Field, Alaska will offer service from two airports in an area that was an epicenter of a 2015 fare war triggered when American took on Southwest and Spirit Airlines Inc. Pricing power for U.S. carriers has yet to recover fully from the scuffle, which eventually spread to most of the domestic industry as growth in seats and flights exceeded travel demand.

Virgin America’s current nonstop routes from Dallas to New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington may change, Minicucci said. Alaska plans to drop the Virgin America brand in 2019.

The fate of the Love Field gates had been the focus of speculation because Virgin America’s flights there, competing against Southwest, were never strong profit generators. Virgin America acquired the gates when American was forced to give them up to merge with US Airways in 2013.

Southwest began a broad expansion from Love Field in 2014, which also pushed fares lower there. Delta Air Lines Inc. operates five daily flights to Atlanta from Love Field and is embroiled in a legal fight with Southwest over continued access to gates at the facility.

(Justin Bachman - Bloomberg News)

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