More on the Southwest-AirTran News

By | September 27, 2010
Airtran Boeing 717
Image via Wikipedia

We were bowled over when we heard that Southwest is going to acquire AirTran. Even more shocking is that Southwest and AirTran apparently started discussing this acquisition in the spring, which means they’ve kept this under wraps for a surprisingly long time.That is surprising in this modern world. Everything seems to leak out.

By buying AirTran, Southwest will grow by 25 percent overnight. It will get access to Atlanta, an incredibly large market that they have never been in, and a variety of other entrances and benefits. The airlines only overlap in Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Orlando.

Southwest appears to be planning to keep the Boeing 717s, but after reconfiguring and removing business class, the 717s will have 117 seats which is comparable to 122 seats on a Southwest 737-500. Most of its 737s actually have 137 seats. Southwest has remained, with a few minor variations, a single plane carrier. Onboard amenities on AirTran include XM and Gogo InFlight Internet, both of which may go as SouthWest is unlikely to offer XM radio and their internet contract is with Row 44.

Flight Global reported last year that AirTran was considering replacements for the 717s. We wonder how Southwest will approach that issue

Elsewhere, AirTran charges bag fees, which flies in the face of Southwest’s Bags Fly Free campaign. It will be the first thing to go, along with assigned seating and change fees.

IT limitations may have hampered Southwest’s efforts in the past and limited their ability to expand internationally, something that CEO Gary Kelly admitted will have to be addressed with a totally new IT system during the integration. AirTran does do some international flying already.

The one potential positive is labor relations. Southwest has always had good labor relations, compared to most carriers. That hopefully means that the integration of AirTran into their employee base will be less troublesome than some other mergers.