Southwest continues AirTran integration in latest schedule release

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Southwest is continuing the integration of AirTran Airways, with the latest changes reflected in its latest schedule release beginning in the fourth quarter.

The latest schedule shows "subtle changes", said Southwest, as opposed to previous tweaks that have resulted in the elimination of roughly 16 AirTran markets.

Southwest closed on its acquisition of AirTran in May of last year and expects to obtain a single operating certificate from the FAA during the current quarter.

Changes to the fall schedule on the AirTran side include relaunching daily seasonal service from Baltimore Washington International airport to Fort Myers and Orlando, Florida and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Schedules in Innovata show both Florida markets are amply covered by both AirTran and Southwest, while AirTran currently serves Grand Rapids on a less than daily schedule.

The schedule change also shows a transition of two AirTran markets into Southwest-branded operations. Southwest will operate its own metal on daily AirTran flights between Atlanta and San Francisco, and one of ten daily AirTran flights from Atlanta and Orlando. Schedules in Innovata show Southwest will battle AirTran's long-time rival Delta Air Lines in those markets.

Two daily AirTran-operated Atlanta-Phoenix flights are being phased out as Southwest explained it would keep two existing flights flown under its brand in the market to meet customer demand.

Southwest is relaunching daily seasonal fights from Orlando to Jackson, Mississippi and Indianapolis, Indiana and nonstop flights from Detroit to Las Vegas. Southwest is the only carrier offering nonstop flights from Orlando to Jackson while AirTran currently offers 13 weekly flights in the Orlando-Indianapolis market. Both Delta and Spirit Airlines offer nonstop flights between Detroit and Las Vegas.

An AirTran market is also being redirected, said Southwest, with flights from Des Moines and Milwaukee being transitioned to Des Moines-Chicago Midway. AirTran rival Frontier cut its Des Moines-Milwaukee flights in November of last year while Des Moines-Chicago is served through O'Hare international by American Eagle, and both mainline and regional United-Continental flights.

The conversion of AirTran aircraft to the Southwest configuration will continue throughout the year as Southwest said one former AirTran Boeing 737-800 will also enter Southwest service in October.