Delta Airlines and Southwest in Battle For Dallas Love Field

Southwest Airlines’ CEO Gary Kelly has highlighted his dislike for Delta Airlines operating out of Dallas Love Field airport, calling the airline a ‘squatter’. The Atlanta airline should have left the airport years ago but have remained on the basis that they think it’s in the interest of Dallas residents. The case has been dragging through the court for years, with no resolution yet achieved.

Southwest want Delta out of Love Field. Photo: Southwest

They say that all is fair in love and war, but at Love Field airport, Southwest think things are not fair at all. The battle between Southwest and Delta for gates at Love Field has been raging for several years and is showing no signs of producing a clear winner yet.

This week, Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly has been quoted as saying Delta is a ‘squatter’ at the airport. As reported by Bizjournals, Speaking at a North Dallas Chamber of Commerce event, Kelly said:


“It’s like you having rented a house, and there’s a squatter in the house and you’ve got to get them out… It’s really no more complicated than that.”

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly Visits Dallas Love Field
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly checks bags at Dallas Love Field. Photo: Southwest

Almost four years since the case went to court, Delta is still running its five daily flights out of Love Field. In response to the Southwest comments, a Delta spokesperson said:

“Only long term, meaningful competition provides the best options and fares for the citizens of Dallas. And to that end, we are pursuing our right to continue flying out of Love Field.”


Not only do they refuse to move out of Love Field, but Delta have also requested eight additional flights from the airport. They say that some of Alaska Airlines gate space is being underutilized and have demanded they be allowed to take over.

From 70 gates to just 20

Back in 1973, Love Field boasted more than 70 gates and was the eight busiest airport in the US. However, the opening of Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) in January 1974 saw most passenger connections at Love Field discontinued.

Since then, the airport has had many of its concourses decommissioned and has downgraded to the small airport we see today. Indeed, Fort Worth authorities were keen to ensure it didn’t compete with the new DFW airport, and as such, a compromise law was passed to restrict the flow of traffic, known as the Wright Amendment.

dallas love field 2013
Dallas Love Field was once one of the busiest airports in the US. Photo: Wikipedia

This law allowed Southwest, and other airlines, to continue operating out of Love Field, but only on routes within Texas and its four neighboring states. Airlines were not allowed to offer connecting flights or through ticketing outside of the five states either, although long haul service was allowed by only on aircraft carrying fewer than 56 passengers.

In 2006, a full repeal of the Wright Amendment was sought by American, Southwest, DFW airport and the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth. This came with some caveats, however, such as limiting the gate numbers to just 20, and allowing Southwest control over 16 of them. The cap on routes and plane size was subsequently entirely lifted in 2014.

How Delta got involved

For several years, Delta operated flights from Love Field to Atlanta by subleasing American Airways gates. When American Airlines was looking to get its merger with US Airways approved by the DOJ, they were forced to give up their slots at Love Field.

As Delta failed to buy the slots, they were told they would have to stop flying from Love Field. Delta were not at all happy about this and threatened to sue the city of Dallas. As a temporary resolution, Southwest agreed to let them use some of their gate space until January 2015.

Southwest Airlines HQ
Love Field has been the Southwest Airlines HQ for many years. Photo: Wikimedia

When this agreement ended, Delta still didn’t want to ship out. United, who had in fact sold their gates to Southwest, agreed to give Delta gate space until July that year. With Delta still unwilling to pack up shop in Love Field, the City of Dallas brought a lawsuit in federal court to finally resolve their claims.

The upshot of this was that, perhaps surprisingly, Delta won. They argued that competition policies and federal aviation law was on their side, and in January 2016 won a temporary injunction to continue providing service at Love Field using Southwest’s gate rights.

Believe it or not, the case is still lumbering through court three years later. Although Delta’s temporary injunction means they are legally able to operate flights from Love Field, a final and permanent decision is yet to be reached.

Who’s in the right here?

From Delta’s point of view, they think that because they were operating flights at Love Field since before Southwest increased their schedule to full capacity, they should be allowed to continue working out of the airport.

Southwest at Dallas Love Field. Photo: Southwest

For Southwest, however, you can kinda see their point. They paid an estimated $120m to United for those gates, and since buying them have had a sitting tenant that they just can’t shift. The other gates they own are operating at the maximum 10 a day capacity, and the airline is keen to gain control of the Delta gates to further expand their services.

“We are at capacity at Love Field,” Kelly said recently. “We have 17 and a half gates that we’re operating out of. It should be 18, if I didn’t mention that earlier. It should be 18.”

According to reports, United Airlines offered their gates to Delta first, but Delta were unwilling to pay the price. They then turned to Southwest who pulled out their checkbook immediately. It seems that now Delta want the courts to give them for free something they were unwilling to pay a fair price for.

A resolution is still looking to be some time coming. Do you think Delta should be allowed to stay at Love Field, or have they outstayed their welcome more than long enough already? Let us know in the comments.


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Delta should ASAP , they are born and bred in Georgia , ATL the largest airport in the USA , 104 million passengers in 2017. DAL 16 Million passengers 2018! Delta is not a low cost airline , send them to DFW! End of rant!


Alaska also Operates from DFW and DAL they should be allowed to compete !! Southwest never lived up to its promise in ATL either


Yeah because delta didn’t want to give them the gates back. So it’s fare delta should leave Dallas


Gary Kelly wants a monopoly at DAL. Not going to happen.

By the way, eventually the public will get around to partly blaming Southwest Airlines for the 737MAX design…as they should. Southwest has been nickel-and-diming Boeing for the last 25 years. Your can thank Southwest for the 737NG and the MAX. Both aircraft are nothing but Boeing designers cow-towing to Southwest. Corners cut, safety compromised in order to deliver a product to SWA airline specifications.




Smarter Jim

Wrong. Boeing’s corner-cutting was due to Airbus coming out with the larger, more fuel efficient 320 Neo and Boeing had to quickly update their 737 line to compete. Southwest didnt force Boeing to do that, nor did they force Boeing to mount the engine the way they did, which altered the dynamics of the airframe, which necessitated the MCAS system that is all over the news now. That’s the short version, do some research if you want to learn more.


Smarter Jim got it right.


Actually jim SWA paid extra money for the safety feature Boeing charged extra for on the MAX therefore the other companies chose not to pay extra for this feature. SWA paid being to make sure they had the best in safety but no SWA did not pay for ovens, and charging sockets.


If Delta is able to get away with squatting like this legally, it sets a really bad precedent in future situations like this. DFW is MUCH larger and serves nearly the same customers, so there isn’t any monopoly at play. It’s simply not fair to Southwest to be able to use their gates they own.


DL needs to leave ASAP! Gary is correct DL is a SQUATTER!! Embarasing!


To Jim,
You are an idiot if you think the Max is because Southwest. I suppose you believe squatters should get praised as well. Clearly you have never owned a company nor understand Boeing and the world market! Get real!


It’s preposterous that Delta is being allowed to “squat” on something that Southwest has paid millions of dollars for.
Delta’s whole argument on why they should stay at Love Field is based on “competition” reducing fare prices for consumers. Let’s be realistic. To think that Delta operating 4 flights a day out of Love Field is causing Southwest (or any of the other airlines) to adjust their prices on the hundreds of flights they operate is simply idiotic.

joseph scalera

delta is too big for their britches! They do not have a right to continue to stay there, blocking SWA’s ability to grow more after suffering through the wright amendment!
Swa paid good money for those gates and time is up for those pigs and their high foluting lawyers and to get the hell out and simply operate out of DFW! They blew their chance when the gates where officially offered!


Passengers have the right to a non low cost carrier. If I want to fly with an airline for it’s reputation and great comfort and world class service I should have that right. Not everyone shops by cheapest fare. Having the Delta Air Lines brand at Love field is great business for the great city of Dallas and it’s passengers.


Randy – you can drive a few miles down the road to DFW if you want premium cabin service. The two airports are very close to one another.


My last flight on Delta sucked…mean flight attendants with bad attitudes…and this was before they started the Barney uniforms…it’s probably worse now…I had one nearly curse me because the alarm on my phone was going off on an airport shuttle the other day…she couldn’t wait 19 seconds for me to get it out of my bag and turn it off…they need to teach them the Barney song to go along with their uniforms…Delta should stop squatting…it’s not ethical


I agree with Gary . They are squatters if they are using the gate rent free. If the court decides to let them stay, they should return half of the $120 million spent to share the gate, or pay rent directly to SWA.


Delta was one of the loudest voices in opposition of repealing the Wright Amendment. Now that Southwest has invested millions upon millions, and years (decades) of work into Love Field, Delta wants in on the action for nothing?


Delta had 30+ gates at DFW as well as a maintenance facility. They didn’t seem to think Dallas was worth it when they gave up 90+% of their gates and all of their maintenance at DFW. Now all of a sudden dal is worth a major legal battle? Sorry they lost that right when they laid off and disrupted Texas families.


We need Delta back. I fly all of the time for business and American is really the only airline you can fly almost anywhere non-stop. American is awful. They are constantly late and boot people off of flights that paid months in advance. Some competition is only a good thing. I largely boycott American and that means I have to take layovers.


I say send them packing and give us an ALB – DAL flight. Albany airport recently went on television discussing the expansion here and showed numbers indicating travelers were looking for DAL direct flights. This would be a way to ensure we stay atop the Albany airport ladder for the most service.


AND I forgot to mention, an ALB – DAL flight would directly impact Delta’s current ALB – DAL profits…..just sayin.


It’s really a shame when people think that Delta should be able to continue to do business when they haven’t paid for the gates, and their agreements to use the gates has legally ended and just because they want the gates [now] they are entitled to them. They are certainly squatters at Love Field and a terrible president we are setting by letting them stay. When is enough, enough Delta! PATHETIC!


Until finding out Delta had a chance to purchase those lots and passes, I thought Delta had a legitimate argument. But based on that fact, they are indeed squatting. The only other recourse would be to expand Love Field by a few gates. Then we can see if Delra really wants to be there or if they just want to squat.