Friday, April 25, 2014

Mr. Branson Goes to Love Field - Maybe?

I don't normally post on Fridays, but we here in Dallas received an announcement today that was important enough to pass on today.  Virgin America announced at a press conference this morning that they have reached an agreement with American on obtaining their two gates at Love Field and, therefore, will be starting nonstop flights from Love to San Francisco, L.A. (LAX), New York LaGuardia, and Washington National effective October 13.  Sort of (which I'll get to in a minute).

This all started when the U.S. Department of Justice approved the merger of American with U.S. Airways, but on the condition that the combined carrier divest gates and slots at certain airports, including the two gates that American currently leases from the City of Dallas at Love Field.  Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America all subsequently told the city and the DOJ that they wanted the gates, a battle that Virgin appears to have won, at least on the surface.

It appears we have a pretty interesting soap opera in the making.  Terry Maxon at the Dallas Morning News reports that AA was apparently told by the DOJ that only one airline was an acceptable recipient of the gates, and that airline was Virgin.  But hold on a minute - Virgin apparently decided to make their announcement and start selling tickets before the city actually approved the gate swap.  According to the same article, American presented the city with a plan to assign its leases to Virgin, a request that the city denied.  It has since resubmitted its proposal as a sublease of its gates, which the city council is supposedly going to discuss on Monday.  In fact, Maxon reported late last night that the city has made no decision on who will get the gates.  (As a side note, Delta has also been selling tickets from Love Field to several destinations outlined in this proposal.  Never mind that the DOJ announced in March that Delta was not an acceptable bidder for the gates.)

So what do I think will happen?  The Dallas City Council has a well-deserved reputation around these parts for the occasional bout of dysfunction, so it wouldn't surprise me if this drags on for a little while.  At the end of the day, though, if the federales tell Dallas that Virgin will get the gates, then Virgin will get the gates.  Personally, I think this is the best solution anyway.  Southwest already controls 16 out of the 20 gates at Love Field, and Delta's proposed service would have relied primarily on regional jets.  I don't know about you, but I hate regional jets.  Delta tries to spruce this up by noting that their RJs come with first class, and in some cases premium economy, but if you ask me, that's just putting lipstick on a pig.  Virgin will use real planes, and they have a reputation for low fares and excellent service.

Most importantly - Virgin has a major fare sale going on right now, with prices as low as $79 one way and half off of Main Cabin Select (premium economy) and First Class fares for flights between October 13 and November 20.  If you need to fly between Dallas and L.A., New York, San Fran, or D.C. during that time period, act fast and grab one of these fares.  You have about 28 hours left as of the time of this posting.

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