AirTran to End Operations in December as Southwest Completes Network Integration

AirTran Airways, initially formed as ValuJet in 1993, will operate its last scheduled flight on December 28, 2014 with AirTran Flight 001 (marketed as Southwest ‘WN5001’) operating between Atlanta and Tampa Bay that evening, the same flight number and routing of ValuJet's inaugural flight on October 26, 1993.

US low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines has revealed its latest network developments as it releases its flight schedules through to early 2015. The latest changes include the carrier’s first flights from Dallas Love Field Airport following the lifting of the Wright Amendment, new international services to Mexico City and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and confirmation that the integration of AirTran Airways’ operations will be completed in late December 2014.

The new schedules released this week from November 2, 2014 through to January 4, 2015 are all full of milestones as highlighted by Bill Owen Lead Planner, Network Planning Technology in his official Southwest Airlines blog. “In my 36 years in this business, I’ve never seen a schedule release that was packed with more incredible, long-time-coming corporate milestones. Any single one of them would be a game-changer for any other airline, but we’re not just any airline,” he said.

Although Southwest Airlines may have recently lost out to Virgin America in this fight for the former American Airlines gates at Dallas Love Field, it is preparing to grow at the airport as the end of the Wright Amendment finally allows it to expand its activities after years of frustration. The carrier has been preparing for this for the past five years and initially from October 13, 2014 will introduce non-stop flights to seven destinations: Baltimore/Washington, Chicago/Midway, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando and Washington/Reagan National.

It now confirms that a further eight destinations will be added to its network from November 2, 2014 - Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, Nashville, New York/LaGuardia, Orange County, Phoenix, San Diego and Tampa - while frequencies will be increased on four of the routes that are launching just one month earlier.

Southwest Airlines also announced new non-stop services between Washington Reagan National Airport and Akron/Canton (daily) and Indianapolis (twice daily) beginning November 2, 2014, increasing the carrier’s service at Reagan National from a present offering of 17 departures to 44 departures a day by year’s end to a total 14 destinations: Atlanta, Akron/Canton, Austin, Chicago Midway, Dallas Love Field, Houston Hobby, Fort Myers, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay.

The expansion is possible by Southwest’s recent acquisition of additional operating slots following the American Airlines and US Airways merger and alongside the 14 non-stop destinations will enable same-plane or connecting itineraries to 63 further points across its network.

In addition to the new routes, Southwest is also increasing the frequency in a number of markets, including adding a third Reagan/National to St. Louis roundtrip and two added roundtrips between Reagan/National and Houston/Hobby for a total of four each weekday. Further boosting its Washington network, it will also add non-stop services between Washington Dulles and both Las Vegas (a resumption of a former route) and San Diego (its first-ever transcontinental service from Dulles).

Elsewhere, seasonal non-stop flights will begin in 18 other markets, while six seasonal non-stop markets will end their 2014 operation during this period and non-stop service in three markets will also be permanently eliminated.

The ongoing integration of the AirTran Airways network into Southwest Airlines’ operation will see the low-cost carrier further grow its international network from November 2, 2014 with two additional destinations - Mexico City and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It has been a five-month phased transition of AirTran’s international service but Mexico City and Punta Cana will become the last stations to be introduced to Southwest branded flying, while the conversion of flying to Cancun and Montego Bay will also be completed.

This will see Southwest start offering flights to Mexico City from Orange County and San Antonio; to Punta Cana from Atlanta, Baltimore Washington and Chicago Midway; to Cancun from Austin and Chicago Midway and to Montego Bay from Chicago Midway from November 2, 2014.

"There are some big gifts for everyone in this holiday schedule: our initial non-stop offerings for a liberated Love Field in Dallas, and nearly triple the flights we currently offer at Reagan National Airport," said Bob Jordan, executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Southwest Airlines. "We're also bringing Southwest service to the final two international destinations on the network we created after acquiring AirTran Airways in 2011.”

These latest network changes mean that with effect from November 2, 2014 the long integration of AirTran’s operations into Southwest will be also complete. From that date AirTran’s remaining domestic flights will only be available for reservation via Southwest sales venues and will operate as Southwest Network Connect services until December 28, 2014 when AirTran will formally end all commercial operations.

The carrier, initially formed as Valujet in 1993, will operate its last scheduled flight on December 28, 2014 with AirTran Flight 001 (marketed as Southwest ‘WN5001’) operating between Atlanta and Tampa Bay that evening. That is the same flight number and market that was the very first flight operated by AirTran’s predecessor, ValuJet, when it launched on October 26, 1993.

Southwest Airlines announced its acquisition of AirTran in September 2010, and closed the transaction on May 2, 2011. The FAA awarded the company a single operating certificate for the two carriers on March 1, 2012. “That integration will be completed on-plan by the end of this year," confirmed Jordan.

In our analysis, below, we look in greater detail at the network capacity of AirTran Airways over the past ten years. This peaked at a high in 2007 and its decline since the Southwest Airlines integration process first started in 2012 is clear to see.

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