Southwest to buy AirTran

ATLANTA — Southwest Airlines said it is buying AirTran Airlines for $1.4 billion.

“Both companies have dedicated people with kindred Warrior Spirits, who care about each other, and who care about serving Customers. We will continue to enhance our award-winning Customer experiences and high-quality operations,” Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines’ chairman, president, and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“We believe this deal can benefit all Stakeholders through an expansion of low fares for customers, opportunities for employees of both companies and for suppliers and vendors, and favorable returns for shareholders,” Kelly added. “Ultimately, we want to spread low fares farther and look forward to working together with AirTran’s Crew Members to realize the new opportunities we expect to achieve from this deal.”

The deal, which is pending regulatory approval, is set to close next year. The combined airline’s operations would be fully merged by 2012.

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