Southwest and AirTran achieve single operating status from FAA

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Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways have made good on their pledge to obtain a single operating certificate from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during the first quarter.

Dallas-based Southwest closed on its acquisition of AirTran in May of last year and the two carriers have been working towards a single certificate since that time.

Obtaining the single operating status allows Southwest to amend its operating certificate and add AirTran and grants the carriers authority to conduct their operations under a single set of FAA operations specifications.

The airlines will continue to operate under separate brands until their years-long integration is complete as Southwest stressed "the transition to a single ticketing system is a large and complex process that will take several years to complete".

Southwest for many years has alluded to the need to replace its reservation system, and late 2011 said it would likely decide this year when to launch a new system and how long construction of the new platform should take. AirTran's uses the Navitaire New Skies platform.

Folding two carriers into the same passenger service system is one of the most complex tasks to complete in airline merger integrations. United-Continental faces a major test this weekend when they migrate to the Shares system previously used by Continental.