DALLAS — Southwest Airlines is the hometown team, and they're trying to gain a little home field advantage.
A group of Dallas-based employees and CEO Gary Kelly went to City Hall Wednesday touting the airline's tenure in Dallas and its commitment to the city.
But it appears the lobbying will not work.
The Dallas city manager has the final say about the future of two gates at Love Field, and City Council sources say it appears those gates are going to Virgin America.
The gates belong to American Airlines, but the Fort Worth-based carrier must give them up as part of its bankruptcy and merger agreement with US Airways.
The Department of Justice already approved a lease agreement for those gates. Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America all submitted proposals, but the DOJ said Virgin is the airline best suited to have them.
In a letter to the Dallas city manager and city attorney, the DOJ cited Delta's legacy carrier status as a reason its proposal was denied. The letter added that giving the gates to Southwest means that airline would control 90 percent of Love Field gates, "denying consumers the benefits of meaningful competition."
But Southwest has a different definition of "competition."
CEO Gary Kelly said Southwest has direct competition in the airlines that fly to and from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. He said Southwest could add 12 more nonstop destinations with those two gates, meaning more competition for fliers in and out of the Dallas market.
"That's what's great for the city here," Kelly said. You have a company that's the hometown airline... that's helped build Love Field into the great place it is today. And we have an opportunity to grow. What city wouldn't want that? More jobs, more flights, more choice."
"This is our home. This is where our people live," he said to a round of applause from the employees who surrounded him. "I'm confident it's the people of Southwest who will do the best for the city of Dallas."
Virgin America began selling seats on the flights to and from Love Field in late April, on the same day the DOJ gave approval to its proposed lease agreement.
Virgin America rolled out the red carpet, hosted parties, and even brought founder Sir Richard Branson to town to show they are making a serious commitment to the city, Branson said.
Virgin America CEO David Cush was at the same City Council meeting with Gary Kelly. He said "everything that can be said about this has been said," adding that his airline is "highly confident" they'll get the gates.
If Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez defies the Department of Justice decision and chooses Southwest over Virgin, there will be consequences.
The DOJ has said it will reject that proposal, and the city would likely be sued by the Department of Justice and/or Virgin.
Gonzalez said he plans to make a decision by Friday.