AirTran goes where Skybus failed

41ZNCZY7K4L.jpgWhere angels fear to tread….Skybus lasted less than a year exploiting Columbus, Ohio, as an underserved market with high fares. Wait a moment…isn’t that the Southwest mantra? And wait another moment…doesn’t Southwest already serve Columbus? Yes, on both counts. And didn’t JetBlue try – and pulled out. So why then is AirTran taking on Columbus? Well, the carrier is linking Columbus, the state capital, with warm weather points- Orlando and Fort Myers, Fla., as well as with its Atlanta Hartsfield/Jackson hub. The two Florida points we suspect have a brighter future than the hub. And Skybus used to serve Punta Gorda, Fla, about 40 miles from Fort Myers. AirTran must believe that there’s a strong enough local market that it won’t cannibalize its long-standing and quite successful service at Akron/Canton (110 miles away)or at Dayton (65 Miles away). Eat your heart out, Cleveland (125 miles away) Hopkins!

And then there’s another cold-weather state capital, Harrisburg, Pa., where AirTran also announced new service, a single daily roundtrip. Harrisburg has been suffering for some time as US Airways and Northwest and Delta all cut back, but this new Orlando service is again a warm-weather delight. And for the state capital, it is very welcome news.

The Harrisburg airport has seen strong growth, but that is mostly because it suffered such deep cuts in 2006. The airport, on the south side of the middle of the state, sees the airport at Baltimore/Washington as a prime competitor and wants to get the people who drive down US Highway I-83 to BWI. Interstate_83_map.png

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