Report: Southwest to ‘unwind’ Atlanta AirTran hub

ATLANTA – When Southwest Airlines begins its service in Atlanta early next year, it won’t be the same service in a new paint scheme.

News reports this week indicate Southwest is planning to revamp AirTran Airways’ Atlanta operation, which is an important hub for AirTran. Southwest is planning to focus on more nonstop travel and less connecting trips.

“We’ll unwind the hub and operate a typical Southwest point-to-point schedule,” Bloomberg News quoted Southwest CEO Gary Kelly as saying. “You’d rather have two nonstop passengers than one connecting passenger. AirTran yields a certain revenue per mile flown, and Southwest gets a premium to that.”

The low-cost carrier has said it will start service to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in February to at least 17 cities from Atlanta, including Chicago Midway; Austin, Texas; Denver; Phoenix; and Las Vegas.

Southwest has already started advertising in Atlanta, using low introductory fares to attract potential travelers.

Southwest, which does not currently serve Atlanta, bought AirTran Airways for $1.4 billion. Among the differences between the two airlines: Southwest does not charge baggage fees and the airline only offers coach seating.

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