Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has subleased two gates from United Airlines at Love Field, which gives it 18 of 20 gates at the airport’s terminal. Southwest said it plans to add nine cities in April, including Memphis, Milwaukee and Seattle.
Southwest Airlines said Friday that it is gaining control of two more gates at Dallas Love Field and will be expanding the number of cities it flies to from the city-owned airport.
The Dallas-based carrier said it has subleased two gates from United Airlines, giving it 18 of the 20 gates at the airport’s one terminal.
Southwest said it will use the gates to start Dallas flights to nine cities in April, naming Memphis, Milwaukee and Seattle among the cities to get nonstop service. It’ll also add flights to cities already served out of Love Field.
Southwest said the U.S. Department of Justice has “reviewed and cleared” the transaction, and the city of Dallas “also has approved the sublease.”
United will continue using the gates until March 16. It intends to leave Love Field and serve area passengers through its gates at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
The announcement comes as major competitor Delta Air Lines has been fighting to get a permanent foothold at Love Field. Delta operates five daily departures to Atlanta from the airport under an agreement with United.
Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the carrier “will continue the current accommodation that United made for Delta, which runs through July 6.”
Last spring, Southwest, which had rights to 16 of the 20 gates, and Delta lobbied hard to get two gates that American Airlines had to give up as part of an antitrust settlement with the Justice Department.
However, Justice officials told the city that the agency would accept only Virgin America as the winner of the gates as a way to increase competition at the airport. Virgin now operates 13 daily departures out of Love Field, with plans to add three flights in April.
United’s Houston trips
United has been using its two gates to offer seven round trips a day to Houston operated by regional partners using small jets. Southwest will use 143-seat or 175-seat Boeing 737s.
United spokesman Luke Punzenberger confirmed the transaction with Southwest.
“This change will allow us to focus on our strengths in the region — including our large Houston hub — and continue to serve our customers through D/FW,” Punzenberger said.
Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter indicated the sublease won’t affect Delta’s schedule in Dallas.
“We continue to operate our nonstop service to Atlanta from Love Field,” Banstetter said. “We are working with the airport and all the parties involved to ensure that we’ll be able to operate that service permanently.”
Wright law’s end
Southwest has boosted its service significantly out of the Dallas airport since the Wright amendment expired Oct. 13. Its end allowed Southwest and other carriers to operate nonstop flights to any U.S. destination. Before that, they were limited to Texas and a handful of nearby states.
Southwest, which had been operating 118 flights inside the Wright amendment borders before Oct. 13, now operates 153 departures, including 53 flights to 17 cities beyond the restricted area.
Without providing many details, Southwest said that in April it would “offer daily nonstop flights to nine new cities from Dallas, including Memphis, Milwaukee and Seattle.” It didn’t identify the other cities.
It also said it would “increase the number of nonstop flights to recently introduced destinations added” after the end of the Wright amendment.
Asked Jan. 20 if the carrier intended to boost flights at Love Field, Southwest chairman and chief executive officer Gary Kelly said: “That’s a great question.”
“We’re at the point where we need more than 16 gates. We do have a use agreement with United that allows us access to a 17th gate to support this level of flight activity. Hopefully, we can add some more flights, but I’m not willing to commit to that yet,” he said.
Southwest would “love to be able to have more capacity at the airport obviously within the 20 gates. So we’re working on that,” Kelly said.