Southwest and AirTran fully connect networks

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Southwest Airlines and its subsidiary AirTran have completed the connection of their networks, which will allow passengers on both carriers to purchase flights to both airlines' 97 destinations in a single ticket.

Southwest acquired AirTran in May 2011 and has been integrating both airlines' networks since then. The two airlines began offering shared itineraries from 26 January in five markets and rolled out shared itineraries in 39 cities on 25 February.

Passengers will be able to book travel on both carriers to any destination from 14 April, says Southwest today.

With the full connection of both airlines' networks, passengers can purchase domestic AirTran-only flight itineraries on Southwest's sales channels, or book Southwest flights connecting to an AirTran flight on AirTran's sales channels.

Southwest is in the midst of changing its reservations systems so it can handle AirTran's international flights. It is expecting to have this reservations system ready in 2014.

With the connection of the carriers' networks, passengers who are booking travel to an international AirTran destination will still be able to do it within a single transaction, but this will be done through a "customer-friendly transfer" of the transaction to AirTran's reservations system.

Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly has said previously that itineraries involving an AirTran international flight will be booked "behind the scenes" on AirTran's system.

Since Southwest closed on its acquisition of AirTran, it has been converting AirTran's 52 Boeing 737-700 aircraft to Southwest's livery and interiors. It has converted 11 aircraft to date.

Southwest is also in the process of transitioning AirTran cities to full Southwest operations and has converted five cities to date - Akron-Canton, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio, Des Moines, Iowa; Key West, Florida; and Branson, Missouri.

It will convert four more cities in April: Charlotte, North Carolina; Flint, Michigan; Portland, Maine; and Rochester, New York. In June, it will convert Wichita, Kansas, followed by Grand Rapids, Michigan in August.

Southwest aims to complete the full integration of AirTran into Southwest by end-2014.