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Delta Air Lines Inc. can keep flying out of crowded Dallas Love Field, a federal judge ruled, thwarting a bid by Southwest Airlines Co. to control 90 percent of the near-downtown airport.
U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade said in an order Friday that Delta’s five flights at the airport currently don’t unduly interfere with Southwest’s schedule.
Delta argued Southwest was establishing a near monopoly when it began subleasing two gates last year, a move that gave the Dallas-based carrier control of 18 of 20 gates at Love.
Delta, which has been using the two gates, asked the court to unwind the sublease or order Southwest to continue to accommodate Delta flights.
The city of Dallas, the airport’s owner, asked Kinkeade in a lawsuit filed in June to settle the dispute over Delta’s gate access.
Since restrictions on non-stop flights were lifted in October 2014, traffic forecasts have mushroomed to 7 million passengers in 2015 from 4.5 million last year, Dallas Aviation Director Mark Duebner testified at a three-day hearing that ended Sept. 30. The airport’s 20 gates are full, and a local agreement keeps it from adding more.
Nonstop flights had been limited at Love under a federal law enacted in 1979 for the purpose of promoting Dallas-Fort Worth International airport.
Southwest has steadily expanded service at Love since the restrictions lifted and now has 180 flights a day at its 18 gates.
Delta flies five flights a day from Love to its hub in Atlanta using Southwest’s gates under a temporary agreement.
“For Southwest Airlines, this is five flights too many,” Delta lawyers wrote in court papers in June. “Southwest has a virtual monopoly over Love Field.”
“Delta has shown no legal right to be on the gates, therefore, they’re trespassing,” Southwest lawyer Kent Krabill told Kinkeade at the hearing in September.
Delta’s lawyers discovered in the case that Southwest, which trades under the ticker LUV, in late 2014 paid United Airlines $120 million to sublease the two gates, in addition to assuming rent payments. Delta alleges the payment was unlawful and asked the judge to unwind the sublease.
“Paying for gates and slots is common and appropriate,” Krabill told the judge. He said the sublease and payment information was submitted to the U.S. Justice Department for antitrust review and the department took no action to stop or modify it.
“Delta is pleased that the court has confirmed our right to serve Love Field,” Delta spokeswoman Kate Modolo said in an e- mail. “We look forward to bringing the people of Dallas the benefit of Delta’s industry leading product and global network at this airport.”
The case is City of Dallas v Delta Air Lines, Inc., 3:15- cv-02069, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
–With assistance from Michael Sasso and Brendan Case.
This article was written by Margaret Cronin Fisk, Tom Korosec and Mary Schlangenstein from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.