In a move that surprised just about everyone, Southwest Airlines announced today that it will acquire AirTran Airways. Once the two carriers' operations are combined (pending regulatory approval), the merged airline will operate under the Southwest name.
According to the initial press release about the transaction, the combined company will have its headquarters at Dallas. The acquisition will include AirTran's entire fleet of aircraft, including its Boeing 717s:
Based on current operations, the combined organization would have nearly 43,000 Employees and serve more than 100 million Customers annually from more than 100 different airports in the U.S. and near-international destinations. In addition, the combined carriers’ all-Boeing fleet consisting of 685 active aircraft would include 401 Boeing 737-700s, 173 Boeing 737-300s, 25 Boeing 737-500s, and 86 Boeing 717s, with an average age of approximately 10 years, one of the youngest fleets in the industry. Southwest Airlines also announced, previously, that it is evaluating the opportunity to introduce the Boeing 737-800 into its domestic network to complement its current fleet, providing opportunities for longer-haul flying and service to high-demand, slot-controlled, or gate-restricted markets. This acquisition supports Southwest Airlines’ evaluation of the Boeing 737-800.No word yet on seniority integration plans for crews, although I'm sure the respective unions are brainstorming already.
The very good news is that no crew furloughs are expected in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, word is out that Southwest is planning to hire 150-200 new pilots, and 250-300 flight attendants very soon. Michael Van de Ven, Southwest's Chief Operating Officer, said today that training classes for both pilots and flight attendants were anticipated to begin in early 2011.
Here is the link to the Southwest-AirTran merger website: http://www.lowfaresfarther.com/