US low-cost giant Southwest Airlines, which turns 40 in June, has moved a step closer to completing its merger with fellow budget operator AirTran after the US Department of Justice cleared the planned merger. The deal is now set to complete on 2 May.
Southwest is already the largest low-cost carrier in the world, while AirTran was the eighth largest no-frills operator by revenue in 2010. The merged operation will create the biggest low-cost carrier in history with joint revenues of $14.7 billion based on 2010 performance.
We spoke to Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly about what the merger means for Southwest earlier this month, as part of a special interactive edition of Airline Business looking at low-cost carriers. Here's a short extract from our video interview with Kelly.
"It is a growth opportunity, and growth opportunities have been very hard to come by over the last couple of years with higher gas prices. It creates a stronger network and brings 38 new destinations and AirTran is a great fit for us."