Update on Southwest's Acquisition of AirTran

Ever since Southwest announced it was acquiring competitor AirTran in the fall of 2010, anxious flyers have wondered how the takeover will affect their ability to find cheap flights on low-cost carriers.

This update will answer some of those questions – and not all the answers are positive.

Southwest: Pro Games on Planes Coming Soon

In Some Cases, Fares will Double

In general, fewer airlines means less competition – and this is happening during the ongoing Southwest/AirTran integration process as one airline or the other drops routes and cities. Less competition results in higher prices, and we are already seeing this at work on the route between Philadelphia and Boston.

The Big Squeeze: Southwest Adds More Seats

Southwest discontinues its Philly-Boston run this coming Friday, leaving US Airways as the sole direct link between these major markets. The result, as first noted by The Boston Globe: Fares will more than double, from about $220 to about $520 after Feb. 11.

AirTran Cities Being Dropped

AirTran is also dropping service to several smaller cities. The following six will lose the airline as of Aug. 12: Allentown, Lexington, Harrisburg, Huntsville, Sarasota and White Plains.

Southwest had earlier announced AirTran would also withdraw from Asheville, Atlantic City, Bloomington/Normal, Charleston, WV, Dallas/Fort Worth, Knoxville, Miami, Moline/Quad Cities, and Newport News. Washington Dulles is also on the AirTran discard list, but Southwest will continue to fly there.

Best and Worst Airlines for Hassles – How Did Southwest Do?

New Southwest Cities Include Hawaii Destinations

Meanwhile, new cities are being added, which may help lower fares. For example, Southwest has already begun flights to Atlanta, which it has long said was on its wish list.

Even more hotly anticipated are Southwest flights to Hawaii, but as CEO Gary Kelly said recently, there is no definitive timetable. “I could see us making a decision this year,” he said, adding “I don’t see us flying to Hawaii this year.”

Speculation on New Las Vegas Routes

For years now, Las Vegas has been a hugely popular destination for Southwest (second only to Chicago-Midway), and The Las Vegas Sun recently speculated new Vegas routes: “Some of the more likely candidates for nonstop flights are seven cities that currently have no nonstop service to Las Vegas: Flint, Rochester, Pensacola, Dayton, Richmond, Akron-Canton and Branson.”

Employees Continue Integration

On the employee front, so far it’s been a relatively smooth ride. Late last month, flight attendants for both airlines voted in favor of a seniority integration agreement.

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Published: February 7, 2012