AirTran continues to evaluate flights to Canada

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US low cost carrier AirTran Airways sees some potential to expand into Canada if the right opportunity presents itself to launch transborder service.

Asked during an investor conference today if there is a chance of AirTran launching service to Canada as it builds up its presence in Milwaukee, carrier CFO Arne Haak said: "I think there might be. For years we've looked at the Caribbean, and I would put Canada on the same sort of list."

After exiting Freeport, Bahamas in 2007, AirTran began an expansion into the Caribbean in March 2008 with the launch of flights from Atlanta to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The carrier also added flights from both Baltimore and Orlando to San Juan the same year. Flights to San Juan were followed by the introduction of flights from Atlanta and Baltimore to Cancun, Mexico in early 2009.

Late in 2009 and continuing into the first quarter of this year, AirTran began adding flights from Atlanta and Orlando to Aruba, and from Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando to Nassau, Bahamas and Montego Bay, Jamaica.

In considering flights to Canada Haak cautions that international airports "tend to be a little bit higher cost. It's a little bit harder to get the same unit cost productivity we get domestically in the US", particularly in Florida and Atlanta.

In 2008 JetBlue VP network planning Marty St. George told ATI high fees at Canadian airports have precluded the carrier from launching flights Toronto and Montreal.

AirTran's Haak is leaving the possible launch of service to Canada open-ended. "I think to the extent there are markets that are underserved and over priced, and we can go in there and be a viable low cost competitor, that could very well be a viable opportunity for us."