Gary C. Kelly — the chief executive officer and chairman of Southwest Airlines — announced during a “webcast” this past Friday that the operations of AirTran Airways will be 100 percent Southwest Airlines by the end of 2014, with Rapid Rewards being the surviving frequent flier loyalty program.
The completion of the absorption of AirTran Airways by Southwest Airlines will have been greater than four years since an announcement was first released from Southwest Airlines pertaining to the purchase of AirTran Airways in a $1.4 billion cash-and-stock deal.
One key result of that deal was the emergence of the presence of Southwest Airlines in Atlanta last year in order to challenge Delta Air Lines on its home turf. The acquisition of AirTran Airways also transformed Southwest Airlines towards becoming an international airline.
Among other things, this latest announcement will mean the disappearance of yet another airline into the annals of commercial aviation history of which FlyerTalk members will mourn; as well as an expected consolidation of the Airtran Airways | A+ Rewards and Southwest Rapid Rewards forums on FlyerTalk similar to that of the new American AAdvantage forum which was created earlier this month.
Other items which were announced by Kelly include:
- International plans by Southwest Airlines to be announced as soon as next month
- A continued focus on winning a greater share of the business travel market, which is expected to increase in 2014
- Refraining from “nickel-and-diming” customers remains a core value
- Retaining the dedicated “fans” of Southwest Airlines is a high priority
The majority of aircraft operated by Southwest Airlines are Boeing 737 airplanes. The fleet of Boeing 717 aircraft operated by AirTran Airways have been purchased by Delta Air Lines where the first batch of 16 airplanes will have been a part of the fleet of Delta Air Lines this year with another 36 airplanes to be delivered in 2014 and the final 36 airplanes to be delivered in 2015, according to NYCAviation.
The fleet of Boeing 717 aircraft from AirTran Airways will be refurbished by Delta Air Lines with new interiors which will cut seating capacity from 117 seats to 110 seats while simultaneously adding premium options such as Wi-Fi Internet service. The configuration by AirTran Airways 105 economy class seats will be converted to 15 Economy Comfort seats and 83 economy class seats. The business class cabin will become the first class cabin while retaining the configuration of twelve seats.
Delta Air Lines will supposedly remove two regional jet airplanes with 50 seats — despised by many FlyerTalk members — from its fleet for each Boeing 717 aircraft added to its operations.
Meanwhile — of the 47 aircraft to be converted from AirTran Airways livery to Southwest Airlines livery — 33 aircraft still sport the AirTran Airways livery as of this time.
The integration of AirTran Airways into Southwest Airlines sure took long enough to implement — but perhaps that amount of time was necessary in order for the absorption of AirTran Airways by Southwest Airlines to be as smooth as possible. Perhaps by the end of 2014, you might actually be able to redeem Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards frequent flier loyalty program points — or the popular companion pass — on international flights currently operated by AirTran Airways…