North Texas wins big in DOJ settlement

North Texas wins big in DOJ settlement
November 12, 2013
American Airlines Aircraft
North Texas is a big winner in a government agreement with American Airlines and US Airways to settle antitrust issues and ensure the airline industry remains competitive and affordable for consumers.

November 12, 2013
By Sheryl Jean

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was untouched by the settlement, leaving it as a major hub for American and the nation’s No. 4 airport, with more than 60 million passengers a year. “Today’s announcement is a big step forward in assuring that D/FW remains the driving economic force for our region and our state,” said Sean Donohue, the airport’s chief executive. “Our anticipated position as the anchor hub for the world’s largest airline positions D/FW well for future air service growth, particularly to international markets.” American controlled nearly 84 percent of the airport’s passenger traffic last year. It leases 111 of D/FW Airport’s 155 gates. US Airways has four gates, and the rest are split among 19 airlines.

Although American must divest two gates at Dallas Love Field, the airport could gain a new carrier, said director of aviation Mark Duebner. Love Field leases 16 gates to Southwest and two each to American and United. The DOJ settlement gives American an option to sublease its gates to another carrier or terminate the leases, Duebner said. If it terminates the leases, the gates would revert to the city and become common-use gates, he said. Delta Air Lines Inc. subleases American’s two gates at Love. Delta would either lose the gates or have to reapply for use of them, Duebner said. Delta did not return a phone call.

Southwest is interested in expanding at Love Field and at least two other airports. It’s already the dominant carrier at Love, leasing 16 of its 20 gates. “Game on,” said Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins. “We haven’t yet seen the details but certainly would be interested in utilizing additional gates at Dallas Love Field.” Southwest also is interested in expanding at Washington Reagan National and New York LaGuardia airports, Hawkins said. But he said it was premature to go into details. Under the settlement, American and US Airways must give up 34 slots at LaGuardia and 104 slots at Reagan National. Who else might be interested in Love Field?

“No network or low-cost carrier in their right mind would be interested in Love Field,” aviation consultant Michael Boyd wrote in an email. “It is a secondary access point to the [Dallas-Fort Worth] metroplex and does not access the growth areas of the region to the west and the north.”

All of American’s major unions, which represent tens of thousands of workers, lauded Tuesday’s settlement. “The DOJ’s actions in recent weeks were the equivalent of hitting a pause button on workers’ wages, benefits and job security,” said Garry Drummond, air transport director of the Transport Workers Union, which represents mechanics, fleet service clerks and ground workers at American. “Today’s announcement will allow TWU members at American Airlines to gain long-delayed raises.” Some of the unions at US Airways were more circumspect. “Until the carrier negotiates new contracts for its own IAM-represented employees, the new American Airlines will not get off the ground,” said Rich Delaney, president of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 141 at US Airways. The union represents about 14,000 workers at US Airways.

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