AirTran slows expansion

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US low-fare carrier AirTran Airways has further cut its growth rate for 2008 and has unveiled plans to also slow down its expansion for 2009 and 2010. "We have to live with the cost of fuel," says AirTran chief ­executive Robert Fornaro.

Air Tran, which is headquartered in Orlando but has its main hub in Atlanta, had already cut last year its growth plans for 2008 from at least 20% to 10%. It has now cut this to only 9%. For 2009 and 2010, AirTran now plans to grow by only about 5%.

The carrier is selling two ­Boeing 737s in April and is considering selling more aircraft. "We're going to adjust our fleet plans further," Fornaro says. "We're making what we think is a dramatic adjustment."

Fornaro adds AirTran will be focusing more on business destinations. "Access to key cities is absolutely crucial for us to develop a strong network," he says. At Washington National and New York LaGuardia "we've made small inroads, but we haven't gotten all we need or want".

It has won rights to add flights to National, most likely to Milwaukee, where it is building up its presence after its unsuccessful bid last year for Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines. AirTran is also expanding at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where it will launch transcontinental flights to Los Angeles in May. "You have to go to the places [business travellers] want to go," Fornaro says.