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Virgin America lands ahead of Southwest for 2 gates at Dallas Love Field airport

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DALLAS - With help from Washington, Virgin America is getting two airport gates at Dallas Love Field.

The airline beat out Southwest Airlines Co. and Delta Air Lines Inc., which also coveted the gates.

Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez announced the decision Monday. He suggested that he had no choice after the U.S. Justice Department required American Airlines to sublease the gates at the city-owned airport near downtown to Virgin America.

"Contrary to reports, this was not a competition," Gonzalez said.

Eventually, Southwest will control 16 gates at the airport while Virgin and United Airlines will get two each.

"We are very pleased to have the opportunity to bring new competition to Love Field," Virgin America CEO David Cush said in a statement.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said his team was very disappointed but remained excited about new flights from Love Field beginning later this year. Dallas-based Southwest had argued that the two extra gates would help it compete with American's stronghold at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Virgin America will be new to Love Field but not to the Dallas area. Since 2010, it has been flying from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Dallas-Fort Worth. The airline plans to shift those flights to Love Field. After federal limits on long flights from Love Field are lifted in October, Virgin will add flights to New York and Washington this year and Chicago next year. Southwest also plans to add flights to many new destinations from Love Field.

American is surrendering the gates as part of a settlement of a government lawsuit against its merger with US Airways. It is selling some of its coveted takeoff and landing rights at LaGuardia Airport in New York and Reagan National Airport near Washington to Southwest, Virgin America and JetBlue, and it will give up two gates each at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Miami.

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