Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Southwest Airlines says good-bye to AirTran Airways

Southwest Airlines 737-8H4 (29882/4007) N8600F rolls for take-off on Rwy 19R at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) on September 7, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

The final AirTran Airways-branded flight operated from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Tampa Bay International Airport Sunday, formally completing the 2011 Southwest Airlines-AirTran merger.

Southwest acquired Orlando-based AirTran for $1.4 billion in cash and Southwest common stock in 2011 in a deal that brought together the world's largest low-cost carrier (LCC) with the third largest LCC in North America.

AirTran was only about 25% of Southwest’s size, but had strengths at airports where Southwest had little-to-no presence and also enabled Southwest to venture into international flying for the first time.

“The acquisition of AirTran was a unique opportunity to extend the Southwest network into key markets it didn’t yet serve, such as Atlanta and the greater Washington DC area via Ronald Reagan National Airport,” Southwest said in a statement Monday.

AirTran 737-76N (32664/1804) N276AT prepares to depart Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport (MKE/KMKE) on August 1, 2010.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Southwest president, chairman and CEO Gary Kelly told The Wings Club in New York earlier this month that Southwest’s decision to slowly rebrand AirTran flights as Southwest flights was critical to the merger being “a tremendous success” with no major integration or operational problems. “We didn’t do a hard cutover,” he explained. “We did it gradually over a two- to three-year time period.”

The last 18 AirTran Boeing 737s will be temporarily taken out of service to be converted into Southwest aircraft in early 2015, according to Kelly. Southwest is close to finishing the process of transferring 88 AirTran 717s to Delta Air Lines. 

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

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