Virgin America is launching a new strategy using recent slots acquired as part of the DOT ordered divestiture in the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. The first flights will serve New York LaGuardia, Washington National, Los Angeles and San Francisco; nonstop from Dallas Love Field.
Not since Legend Airlines served Dallas Love Field, in the year 2000, has there been an upscale option available and with new rules allowing for longer flights out of DAL. Virgin shouldn't plan for a cakewalk however, Southwest has been plotting a massive Love Field expansion for years.
In a press release that will be distributed today, Virgin details their plans:
"In October 2014, Virgin plans to move current Dallas operation from DFW to Dallas Love Field (DAL) and launch new daily nonstop service from DAL to LGA, DCA, LAX and SFO. In addition to launching DAL operations with four flights a day from Love Field to both LGA and DCA, Virgin plans to add two DAL to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) flights and a fourth frequency to both SFO and LAX from DAL in 2015. These plans are contingent upon receiving certain government authorizations, which Virgin is working on securing."
In a statement to headquarters employees, Virgin continued:
"We are making these moves for a variety of reasons. For starters, the opportunity to secure access to valuable slots and gates at key airports like DAL, DCA and LGA is a rare occurrence. As a result, too often, new entrant carriers like Virgin America are locked out of big business airports. However, the Department of Justice(DOJ) merger settlement with American Airlines and US Airways has opened the door to competition. The DOJ settlement provides for some healthy competition at airports such as LGA and DCA, where legacy carriers have long dominated operations and where travelers have suffered as a consequence. As part of this process, we recently acquired 12 slots (for six roundtrip flights) at LGA and eight slots (for four roundtrip flights) at DCA. The DOJ has identified Love Field as another gate restricted airport where more airline competition would benefit consumers. At present, Southwest controls 16 of the 20 gates at Love Field. We have a great deal of respect for Southwest as the original low-fare carrier, a model that has had a positive impact worldwide, but having anyone control more than 80% of capacity at an airport is a bad deal for consumers.
Second, the chance to expand in the Dallas, New York and Washington, D.C. markets, where our business-friendly service really shines, is a strategic investment that allows us to build a more lucrative route network. Although we compete well and are successful flying our current DFW to SFO and LAX schedule, adding DCA, LGA and ORD service and consolidating all of our operations at Love Field will allow us bring our unique service to an airport that is preferred by many passengers due to its closer location to downtown Dallas. Love Field is a clear opportunity to build our own niche in Dallas, serving five of the top seven North Texas business markets in the nation.
Third, Love Field is the right competitive landscape for us. Love Field allows us to better serve our growing base of Dallas travelers, as the airport’s modern amenities and centralized location make it a more convenient choice for Dallas based as well as Dallas bound business travelers. We would have a unique product advantage on these longer-haul flights as the only carrier at Love Field to offer guests three classes of service, WiFi, in-seat power outlets and touch-screen seatback entertainment on every flight.
The gate and slot concessions that DOJ extracted from American are significantly reshaping the competitive environment in some of our nation’s most important airports and we applaud its actions. We are confident that our plan supports DOJ’s overarching goal to increase competition in what has become a dangerously concentrated industry. Although there is still work to be done to secure the gates, we also are confident that government officials will see the significant benefits that Virgin America would bring both to Love Field and to the citizens of Dallas"
There will definitely be no "Love Fest" between Southwest and Virgin and I look forward to watching the story unfold. When Legend Airlines arrived on the scene in 2000, American Airlines declared war by deploying Fokker 100 jets outfitted with all first class seating to compete against Legend's luxury DC-9s. Legend only lasted a few months before ceasing operations.
About Gailen David: Gailen David is co-host of the bi-weekly "Savvy Stews" travel segment on The Daily Buzz which airs in over 175 US TV markets. Gailen leads a Jetiquette® discussion at www.savvystews.com to make air travel a more pleasant and civilized experience.