Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson says his airline would be willing to go to court if it doesn't win the use of two open gates at Dallas Love Field.
"Virgin America wants to get up and compete," Branson said during an appearance on Good Day. "We're simply saying that at Love Field, Southwest has 90 percent of the gates. Give us 10 percent. The Department of Justice has said that's good for competition. Virgin America should have the chance to get up and compete."
Virgin America is already selling tickets for flights to leave from the two gates, which were given up by American Airlines as part of a deal with the Department of Justice during its merger with U.S. Airways.
The City of Dallas will ultimately choose who gets the gates. Southwest Airlines and Delta also hope to win the gates.
Branson said his airline will be willing to fight for the gates if the City of Dallas chooses a different airline.
"I think it is extremely likely it will end up in court," Branson said. "Not just by us, but the Department of Justice might take extreme exception if we don't win. They've done a very in depth study. They say it will be very good for competition. They're taking it away from American because that was so anti-competitive. To give it to Southwest, the biggest airline in America, just doesn't make sense."
On April 28, the Dallas City Council's Transportation Committee referred the issue to the entire Dallas City Council for a presentation. A consultant hired by the city said that Dallas-based Southwest Airlines was the best option.
"We believe legally we are correct, and we hope the city will now sign the lease," Branson said.
Branson is also appealing to the public and hopes they support Virgin America winning the gates as well.
"For the kind of airline we're setting up, we think Love Field is absolutely right," Branson said. "The business traveler, the first class traveler. They'd love to go to Love Field to go to flights to New York or Los Angeles."
“I’m embarrassed by it,” said Dallas City Councilmember Philip Kingston. “I really am...to put ourselves in a position of appearing to choose a winner or putting a thumb on the scale or something, it just, it feels yucky to me.” Those close to the talks think there may be indirect consequences if the city thumbs its nose at the DOJ.
“I wouldn't want the DOJ to come in and examine whether we have competitive problems at Love Field,” said Phillips. “…I don't want to be adverse to the federal government.”
But would the Justice Department really take action against the city if the gates don't go to Virgin?
FOX 4 asked a DOJ spokeswoman that, but she wouldn't speculate.
On Monday night, Branson hosted a party in Uptown Dallas where he crowd surfed with supporters.
KDFW FOX 4 400 N. Griffin Street Dallas, Texas 75202
Main Station Directory: (214) 720-4444 News Fax: (214) 720-3263 or (214) 720-3333