ROUTES: Southwest's Atlanta revamp bearing fruit

Las Vegas
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Southwest Airlines' de-banking of its schedule at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International airport in November is already beginning to pay off, with gains in both local and connecting traffic.

Bob Jordan, chief commercial officer of the Dallas-based low-fare carrier, says that its optimised schedule in the Georgia capital has generated “good gains” in local traffic from November, on the sidelines of the World Routes conference in Las Vegas today. He adds that the carrier is already carrying more connecting passengers over Atlanta than subsidiary AirTran Airways did following the acquisition in 2010.

“It’s much more Southwest-like, like a Chicago Midway perhaps,” he says on the optimised schedule in Atlanta. “We have no banks, instead we have a much larger number of small peaks during the day.”

Atlanta was the combined carriers’ fourth largest airport with 173 daily departures in August, according to Southwest.

The new schedule, which is part of Southwest’s on-going integration of AirTran, is a key part of optimising the airline’s network. For example, it allows for improved aircraft, gate and crew utilisation, says Jordan.

Another key part of the network optimisation was the implementation of codesharing between Southwest and AirTran in April. This was further enhanced with co-ordinated schedules in August and October.

Schedules at airports like Baltimore/Washington International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International and Orlando International, where both Southwest and AirTran have large operations, were “sub-optimised” prior to the codeshare, says Jordan.