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DALLAS - Virgin America landed an Airbus A320 at Dallas Love Field Thursday evening - rather than Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport - a little more than 12 hours before Virgin said it will 'announce the future of its Dallas operations.'

'Virgin America President and CEO David Cush and Chairman of the Board Don Carty will be on-hand to discuss the airline's upcoming plans for the Dallas market,' the airline's news release said.

In December 2010, Sir Richard Branson brought his airline to D/FW Airport, where it uses two gates to compete against American Airlines to fly to L.A. and San Francisco.

'They move to Love Field, and Southwest is not going to have 15 flights a day to L.A. So they'll have more of a competitive balance in Love Field,' said Mark Drusch, chief supplier relations officer at Fareportal.

Virgin wants to give up its gates at D/FW and take over two of American's gates at Love Field, which the Department of Justice (DOJ) made American surrender to merge with US Airways.

Both aviation and government insiders told News 8 that Virgin beat out Southwest Airlines for the gates after the Justice Department said Delta Airlines wasn't a viable option.

If a decision has been reached, the DOJ would not reveal it Thursday.

'I don't have anything for you on this at this time,' said Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona.

The city of Dallas, which owns Love Field, also said no decision has been made.

'The City of Dallas is aware of the interest among several carriers to operate out of two of the 20 gates at Dallas Love Field,' the city's statement read. 'As of today, there has been no decision regarding any carriers operating at these gates.'

But the city added that the operation of gates at Love Field would be discussed Monday afternoon in a City Council committee hearing.

Still, experts said if Virgin makes the move to Love, fares there will likely drop.

'Southwest Airlines practically has a monopoly at Love Field. By injecting competition - which is what the DOJ is trying to do - by injecting this competition with Virgin America, it will help to moderate fare increases or perhaps bring down some fares,' Drusch said.

In March, Virgin said if it won the two gates at Love Field, it would add flights to New York, Chicago, and D.C., in addition to California.

But no move would happen until October, when the Wright Amendment expires and just as Southwest increases its own number of direct destinations from Dallas.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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