AirTran to detail Milwaukee growth next week

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AirTran next week plans to announce details about new growth from Milwaukee.

Carrier chief executive Bob Fornaro tells attendees at the Raymond James Growth Airline Conference that "next week, we'll make a series of announcements about Milwaukeeexpanding in Milwaukee is a priority for us in 2009".

AirTran, based in Orlando, has grown its presence in the Wisconsin city gradually over the past 18 months, ever since it withdrew from a bidding war for Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines. "They [Midwest] are down to nine main-line planes, from the 35 they used to have, and they're serving mostly regional destinations," he says.

Fornaro also explains AirTran will not resume serious growth until 2011. Its Atlanta presence will moderate, "possibly falling below 60% of departures in 2009," he says. Atlanta flights now account for 62% of its daily departures.

Even though AirTran is suffering from the same weaknesses as the rest of the industry, "it's possible that we may be RASM-positive because of our focus on ancillaries," he says.

Separately, AirTran is calling 49 of its furloughed pilots back to work for its summer schedule. Last August, it laid off or furloughed 169 of its 1,450 pilots, but has since recalled 120 of them. AirTran could increase its aircraft utilization by 4% to 5% this year if it needs to, Fornaro says, although he said that growth rate was "not likely."