DAL bumped from DAL

Delta Air Lines (DAL) had grand plans for service from Love Field in Dallas (DAL). Back in March the carrier announced its intention to operate approximately 20 daily flights to five destinations. But instead of those routes taking flight or even just continuing the five daily flights operated today to the carrier’s main hub in Atlanta Delta is being unceremoniously bumped out of operating at Love Field. The move takes effect on 13 October, the same day Virgin America takes over control of the two gates currently leased to American Airlines; Delta subleases one of the gates for its operations.

Delta has operated flights between Atlanta and Love Field since 2008 and the planned growth was based on gaining access to the two gates American Airlines was forced to divest as part of the US Airways merger. Virgin America ended up getting the gates, however, leaving Delta in the lurch. The airport has but 20 gates and Southwest holds 16. Two more belong to Virgin America now leaving only two left. And United Airlines controls those. Not surprisingly none of the airlines wanted to share with Delta. And so DAL is out at DAL.

The decision was summed up in a letter from the city’s Director of Aviation to Delta officials:

[B]ased on the schedules recently provided, and the Gate Use License Agreement between Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, the City has acknowledged that Delta cannot be accommodated at Dallas Love Field after the expiration of the current sublease with American Airlines.

As for why there’s not enough room to share, Virgin America is taking a relatively aggressive approach and already allocated most of the daily operations for their pair (at least 16 daily flights by the time next Spring rolls around). United currently operates relatively few flights between Love Field and their Houston hub but that is also set to change. By early 2015 United will up their schedule to ~12 daily flights. That’s not really enough to fully use the gates (8-10 flights per day per gate should be quite reasonable) but United’s schedule is such that there will often be two planes on the ground. Just often enough to reasonably say there’s no room for Delta.

These sorts of games at slot-restricted airports are not particularly uncommon and this is not the first time Delta and United have sparred over access to airports. United repeatedly went after Delta’s slot at Tokyo’s Haneda airport each time Delta suspended service there; eventually United took over the slot previously awarded to American Airlines. And there will certainly be more games in the future. Some of them may even crop back up at Love Field.

But, in the mean time, no more DAL at DAL.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. It is a CRJ, but Delta said they were going to up-gauge to 717s for the new service. It would have been rather competitive, I think. And it isn’t like UA’s 12x E45 service is the epitome of passenger comfort, though the route is much shorter.

      I’m hoping that the 12 to IAH is a placeholder and UA adds E75 service to other hubs, but I’m also a realist and recognize that’s not too likely.

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