On May 2, 2011 Southwest Airlines closed on a deal that now has the lowfares giant taking over customer-favorite AirTran. What this means to the flying-public is yet to be seen, though Southwest officials claim that it will give the consumer more flight options at the lowest fares possible. While this at first glance seems great, why do I feel that I’ve heard that same kind of line before from other large company take-overs? (see: AT&T after the break up of MaBell).

Since the 1970’s Southwest has proven to be an airline with friendly, competent service, and always posts some of the most competitive fares in the industry. Their commercials are classic, and they even had a reality TV show about the behind-the-scenes of an airline called ‘Airline’. The commercials,  show, and overall quality catapulted Southwest as to a major player in the people-mover business in the new millennium. “With our acquisition of AirTran”, states a Southwest official, “we’re creating new opportunities for our collective employees, customers, shareholders and communities alike.”

Over the past ten years Atlanta-based AirTran had been building its customer share, apparently so well that the company became a hot commodity in the airline industry. I’ve been a frequent customer of AirTran and have found them extremely easy to book with, and their fares have always been competitive. Perhaps the most similar trait between the two airlines is their dedication to making their customers satisfied and faithful.

In a Press Release to its customers AirTran officials said, “AirTran and Southwest are now one family committed to providing the best customer experience to more than 100 million customers…from more than 100 airports.” Though the transaction was finalized on May 2, the FAA isn’t expected to grant a Single Operating Certificate until the first quarter of 2012. Until then AirTran and Southwest customers will be able to go on with business as usual, with the overall transition beginning over the next couple of months. By early 2012 the AirTran fleet will be sporting the Southwest colors. It will be one brand, one airline, thanks to the expertise of two solid companies joining forces.

Aside from Southwest moving into existing AirTran terminals, experts predict that this merger will result in the creation of other Southwest destinations around the country. If this prediction is true, the new Southwest could position itself as the one of the most successful airline companies in the industry.

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