Delta gained control of a full gate at Dallas Love Field under a legal settlement last summer, and will begin fully utilizing it in June.
Meanwhile Delta is finally going to grow in Austin. I broke the news they planned a focus city in my home town nearly five years ago. Growth here, delayed by the pandemic, is finally beginning, recognizing that they were falling behind at the number one growth airport in the country.
Fully Utilizing A Gate At Dallas Love Field
This past summer, after a seven year ordeal, Delta leveraged the Department of Transportation to force Dallas Love Field to give them a gate and get the City of Dallas to pay for it. Starting June 5, Delta is ramping up use of gate 11.
- 2x daily service to New York LaGuardia
- 2x daily service to Los Angeles
- 5x daily service to Atlanta
By law there are only 20 gates at Dallas Love Field. There used to be 32, but 12 were ordered eliminated as part of a deal to lifted Wright Amendment restrictions on where flights could go from the airport while still limiting competition for American Airlines flights out of Dallas – Fort Worth and giving Southwest Airlines a stranglehold on the smaller airport.
Southwest Airlines used to be the one fighting to be allowed to fly, but in this process turned into the one fighting to enforce a government-granted monopoly. Here’s how Southwest wound up with 18 of the airport’s 20 gates.
- They had leases for 16
- United Airlines leased two. Delta was using one of those gates. But United got a better deal leasing them to Southwest, giving Southwest control of 18 gates
- American Airlines had two gates, but gave them up as a condition of government-approval for their US Airways merger. The gates went to Virgin America, and are now controlled by Alaska Airlines which acquired Virgin.
All of this left Southwest with 18 gates, Alaska with 2, and Delta without a gate in the game of musical airport chairs.
However the Department of Transportation said that the City of Dallas had to continue to accommodate Delta at Love Field even though it had no gates to do so, couldn’t legally build more, and Southwest had a valid lease for the gate Delta was using.
The FAA threated to issue a determination that the City of Dallas was in noncompliance with its Federal grant obligations in the operation of Dallas Love Field, making them ineligible for FAA grant funds.
Everyone wound up in Court. Just for kicks, American Airlines got involved to say they wanted gates at Love Field, too! (They didn’t really, they were basically trolling.) In the meantime Delta squatted on a Love Field gate half the time.
Here’s how they settled:
- Alaska Airlines doesn’t actually want to use two gates at Love Field
- So Delta will use one of them
- And the City of Dallas will kick in $200,000 a year to lease the gate for Delta through 2028
Delta used to at least pretend to be against government subsidies for the airline industry, now they are vocally in favor.
None of this would have been an issue if the federal government hadn’t limited the number of gates at Love Field, helping to cartelize the airport, and if the city hadn’t destroyed gates there would have been a greater chance of redress through Congress.
Growth In Austin Finally Begins
Delta’s 2018 plan for a focus city was delayed. All they really did was open a gorgeous new Sky Club with an outdoor deck, while joint venture partner KLM began service to Amsterdam and vassal Virgin Atlantic launched service to London.
They dropped plans for all of their focus cities except Austin and Raleigh in 2021, but still didn’t actually do anything to grow in Austin.
Currently Southwest Airlines is the dominant carrier in Austin, following by American. According to data from Cirium Diio Mi, February schedules break down as follows:
Delta’s flying in Austin consists of:
- Atlanta: 7 peak daily departures. This will grow to 10 starting July 10.
- Boston: 2 peak daily departures. This will grow to 3 starting July 10.
- Detroit: 3 peak daily departures. This will remain the same.
- New York JFK: 3 daily departures. This will grow to 4 starting June 5.
- Los Angeles: 3 peak daily departures. This will grow to 4 starting July 10.
- Minneapolis: 3 peak daily departures. This will grow to 4 starting July 10.
- Seattle: 2 peak daily departures. This will grow to 3 starting July 10.
- Salt Lake City: 3 peak daily departures. This will grow to 4 starting June 5.
- Raleigh: 1 Delta connection flight. Delta will offer 2 frequencies starting July 10.
Delta Sky Club Austin
This represents 10 additional daily flights, which are supportably by their current gates. This represents roughly a 37% increase in daily departures for the airline. That won’t move their overall market share in the city, except to pull ahead of United to a clearer number three. It also means flying only to Delta’s own hubs still, plus their other focus city of Raleigh which they’ve been backing away from.
However it means offering substantially more service on their own terms, great for Delta flying in the city and great for convenient schedules and connectivity.