Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Southwest Airlines to terminate AirTran Airways / Skywest Airlines agreement

Southwest Airlines Co., which completed the purchase of AirTran Holdings Inc. this month, plans to end the smaller carrier's flights to six Midwest cities operated under an agreement with SkyWest Inc.

Southwest's pilot contract doesn't allow for such so-called code-share flying in the U.S., Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said today. Southwest has had talks with SkyWest and hasn't given a termination notice, Kelly said after the airline's annual meeting at its Dallas headquarters.

The affected cities are Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; St. Louis; Akron-Canton, Ohio; Indianapolis; and Pittsburgh, and most flights are performed with regional jets to and from the Milwaukee hub, AirTran President Bob Jordan said.

Southwest serves some of the cities, such as Omaha, on its own and hopes to keep flying to all of them, although it hasn't yet determined routes, schedules or plane types, Kelly said. Omaha is home to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., whose MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. unit is based in Des Moines.

"We will try to sustain service in places like Des Moines even when we shut down SkyWest," Kelly said.

SkyWest, based in St. George, Utah, had no immediate comment.


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