In a surprise announcement, Virgin America made a very public bid for the two gates at Dallas Love Field that American must divest as part of the agreement with the Department of Justice allowing its merger with US Airways.
To date, the only other contender for the Love Field gates was Delta, which has been leasing the gates from American. So confident was Delta in its prospects for purchasing the gates outright that it had already begun selling seats for future flights from Love Field to New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Detroit.
Virgin America's expression of interest in the gates throws Delta's plans into doubt, and could knock it out of the running altogether.
Virgin America's own plan is to make Love Field a kind of mini-hub, with new flights to LaGuardia, Washington National, and Chicago O'Hare. The airline would also relocate its current Los Angeles and San Francisco flights from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Love Field.
The DOJ settlement that is forcing American to divest its Love Field gates, as well as gates at La Guardia and Washington National airports, specifically mentions low-cost carriers as the preferred candidates to take over the vacated gates. So between Delta and Virgin America, Virgin America's LCC status would seem to give it the edge.
On the other hand, 80 percent of Love Field's gates are already in the hands of America's premier low-cost carrier, Southwest. So Delta will no doubt argue that the addition of another low-cost airline would be redundant.
Both carriers are behaving publicly as though their success is a foregone conclusion. In the end, though, the only certainty is that the Department of Justice will have the final say.
Reader Reality Check
Delta or Virgin America, which airline would be the best addition to Love Field?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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