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Airtran and Southwest Is Done And Done

by Jason Steele

I vaguely recall hearing about some kind of royal wedding last week in England, but I don’t have all of the details on that. What I am excited about is that the merger of Southwest and Airtran has finally concluded. Since arriving in Denver in 2006, Southwest has been my favorite airline. They deliver a quality product in a friendly and efficient manner. In most other industries, that would be expected from any company, but in the airline industry, that makes them a superstar. Airtran was not a bad airline. They offer inexpensive first class upgrades while eschewing the fare gouging formula that has been the staple for Atlanta based rival Delta. Cities have mourned the loss of Airtran whenever they have been forced to pull out of a market, as Delta has been known to quickly multiply its fares in the absence of competition.

What Is Next For Southwest And Airtran

As employees of the former America West can tell you, just because the merger is signed that doesn’t mean that there is smooth sailing ahead. In fact,  a realistic appraisal is that the greatest challenges still lie ahead. The two companies have to merge brands, staff, facilities, and of course, operations. I see this playing out in one of several ways. First, Southwest could quickly cannibalize some of Airtran’s gates and landing slots. In that way, we could see Southwest landing in Airtran only airports such as Atlanta, Washington National, and other southeastern destinations. We could also see Airtran making some moves in the near term to match Southwest’s offerings. It would be pretty easy for them to quickly drop change fees and bag fees, if  Southwest wanted to. Next would come some sort of interline agreement where you could change planes between flights. Finally, they hope to operate on the same FAA certificate, erasing any distinction between the two carriers.

Another possible scenario is the go slow approach. AirTran’s website is emphatic that all policies will remain the same for some time, as they do not expect to move to the single certificate before the end of the year. Fresh off their Rapid Rewards 2.o rollout fiasco, Southwest might take the prudent approach of integrating everything behind the scenes before rolling out any new changes to AirTran.

How You Can Profit From The Change

Until today, it was still possible that the merger might not go through. In fact, Southwest’s proposed a merger with Frontier Airlines a few years ago, only to see the deal fall through. Today, it is a done deal, but like any merger, there will be some time where you can earn miles in both airline’s programs. If you have a credit card from one of the carriers, you can easily acquire the other’s credit card, if only for the sign up bonus. When their programs are merged, you will end up with that many more miles in the Rapid Rewards program.

In Conclusion

This is a good day for airline passengers. While every other airline has been jacking up fees and cutting services, Southwest has remained stalwart against such anti-consumer actions. By purchasing AirTran, they are tremendously expanding their reach up and down the east coast and throughout the Southeast. There can be no doubt now that, aside from international routes, Southwest is playing in the same ballpark as Delta, American, Southwest, and US Airways. As Southwest does battle market by market, their success will help control and even lower the airfares, change fees, and bag fees of the other airlines, like it has in Denver.

So for now just sit tight and be patient, it won’t be long until virtually every major domestic destination is graced with Southwest’s service.

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