DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - After weeks of lobbying, Virgin America says it's feeling the "Love." On Monday afternoon, the City of Dallas announced that it is allowing Virgin America to use two gates up for grabs at Love Field Airport.
Fresh from his visit to Dallas last week, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson gave his thumbs up in this celebratory tweet -- with lipstick all over his face.
The airline said more than 27,000 people signed an online petition, and in a statement said, in part -
"We appreciate the support of Dallas travelers and all of the Virgin America flyers and look forward to bringing a new choice to patrons of Love Field."
The U.S. Justice Department told the city it would only allow Virgin America to use the two gates -- not Southwest or Delta, which also wanted them. The government says it's all in the name of competition. So, it required American Airlines to sub-lease the gates to Virgin America.
The city's aviation director says the city didn't have much of a choice - either approve or reject the sub-lease. He says the other airlines weren't a factor.
In a statement late Monday afternoon, Southwest Airlines' CEO Gary Kelly said -
"We're very disappointed. We are proud of the offer we made the city of Dallas to expand service with our request for two additional gates at Love Field."
Last week, Kelly said nothing could dampen Southwest Airlines this year. That's because flight restrictions at Love Field known as the Wright Amendment will come to an end October 13, after 35 years.
Southwest has said it will offer non-stop flights this October to popular destinations, including New York LaGuardia, Washington Reagan National, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and other cities.
Virgin America is scheduled to begin offering non-stop flights between Love and Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York LaGuardia, and Washington Reagan National in October, then Chicago O'Hare next year. The airline will move flights from DFW International Airport to Love Field in October.
A DFW spokesman says Virgin America will still honor its lease of one gate and owes the airport $6 million. The airport gave Virgin America a $2 million incentive to begin flights there in 2010.
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