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Government Dallas sues US as fight over Love Field escalates

Dallas sues US as fight over Love Field escalates

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DALLAS (AP) – The city of Dallas has asked a federal court to settle a long-running fight over which airlines can operate out of its local airport.

Under a federal law that stood for more than 30 years, airlines at Love Field could only fly to other places in Texas or a few nearby states unless they used very small planes. Those limits expired in October, setting off a land rush by airlines.

The city filed a lawsuit this week against two federal agencies and six airlines.

Southwest Airlines Co. controls 18 of 20 gates at the city-owned airport. Delta Air Lines Inc. operates five flights a day from one of those Southwest gates, but that deal that expires July 6.

Delta wants to add eight new flights to more destinations. Southwest wants to take back its gate.

Profits at airlines have soared in recent years as more people travel by air. The shares of Delta, Southwest, United and American have all hit unprecedented heights this year and space for carriers is precious.

In a letter to the city this week, a U.S. official said Delta has the right under federal law to stay at Love Field and said the city is obligated to make room for new flights that Delta wants to add because space was available when Delta made its initial request in February.

However, the city contends that a 2006 federal law and an agreement involving Dallas, Fort Worth, Southwest and American Airlines take precedence over orders from federal regulators.

The city is now suing the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, Delta, Southwest, Virgin America, American Airlines, United Airlines and Seaport Airlines. The city said threats from regulators and airlines “have put the City in an impossible situation” that only the federal court can resolve.

A spokesman for Delta, based in Atlanta, said Thursday that federal officials have confirmed Delta’s right to stay at Love Field indefinitely. A spokesman for Southwest, which is headquartered next to the Dallas airport, said it welcomed the chance to have its day in court.

There are two other gates at Love Field that had been operated by American Airlines until it was ordered to give them up as a condition of its 2013 merger with US Airways. They are now operated by Virgin America Inc.

Delta also flies to nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where American is the dominant carrier. Southwest and Virgin do not operate at DFW.

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