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AirTran Airways

AirTran Airways
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1992 (1992) as ValuJet Airlines
Commenced operations October 26, 1993 as ValuJet Airlines[1]
November 17, 1997 as AirTran Airways
Ceased operations December 28, 2014 (2014-12-28) (integrated into Southwest Airlines)
Frequent-flyer program A+ Rewards
Fleet size 138
Destinations 69
Company slogan Go. There's nothing stopping you.
Parent company Southwest Airlines Co. NYSE: LUV
Headquarters Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Key people
Website .comairtran

AirTran Airways was an American low-cost airline headquartered in Dallas, Texas and was a subsidiary of Southwest Airlines, with which it integrated. AirTran operated nearly 700 daily flights, primarily in the eastern and midwestern United States, with its principal hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport where it operated nearly 200 daily departures. AirTran's fleet consisted of Boeing 717 aircraft, of which it was the largest operator, and Boeing 737-700 aircraft. It was fully integrated into Southwest Airlines on December 28, 2014.


  • History 1
    • Foundation & early years 1.1
    • 2000s 1.2
      • Failed acquisitions 1.2.1
    • 2010s 1.3
      • Buyout and wind-down 1.3.1
  • Corporate affairs 2
    • Employee relations 2.1
  • Destinations 3
    • Top served cities 3.1
    • Codeshare agreements 3.2
  • Fleet 4
    • Retired 4.1
  • Cabin 5
  • Livery 6
  • Incidents and accidents 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Foundation & early years

The original AirTran Airways, a Boeing 737 operator with service to/from Orlando, was founded by AirTran Corporation, the holding company of Mesaba Airlines of Minneapolis, Minnesota, operating as a Northwest Airlink carrier with hubs in Minneapolis and Detroit. In 1994, AirTran Holdings purchased a start up 737 operator named Conquest Sun and renamed the airline AirTran Airways. Conquest Sun, similar to ValuJet, was an airline started by former Eastern Air Lines employees. The original AirTran Airways moved its headquarters to Orlando, Florida, and grew to 11 Boeing 737 aircraft serving 24 cities in the East and Midwest providing low-fare leisure travel to Orlando. In 1995, AirTran Airways was spun off by Mesaba and formed its own independent holding company named Airways Corporation.

On July 10, 1997, ValuJet, Inc., the holding company for ValuJet Airlines, Inc., announced plans to acquire Airways Corporation, Inc., the holding company for AirTran Airways, Inc. of Orlando, Florida. The deal was closed on November 17, 1997.

Following two serious accidents (flight 597 and flight 592), both blamed on a lax corporate culture on safety at ValuJet,[2] on September 24, 1997, ValuJet Airlines changed its name to AirTran Airlines, by, on November 17, 1997, acquiring Airways, Inc. and renaming the holding company AirTran Holdings, Inc. In the summer of 1998, the two airlines merged onto the same FAA certificate and the AirTran Airways name survived. While the hub remained in Atlanta, the headquarters of the new entity was combined in Orlando, Florida, on January 28, 1998.

In January 1999, a new management team led by Joe Leonard, a veteran of Eastern Air Lines and Robert L. Fornaro, of US Airways, took the reins at the airline. The two recruited a new senior management team including Stephen J. Kolski, Operations, Kevin P. Healy,[3] Planning, and Loral Blinde, Human Resources. The immediate goals were to stabilize the balance sheet and prepare to refinance debt due in early 2000, fix the operations, increase and establish revenue streams and prepare for delivery and operation of the Boeing 717. AirTran was the launch customer and ultimately the largest operator of this brand new aircraft. At the same time, Leonard was determined to not only lead the turn around of the carrier, but establish a culture of trust and entrepreneurship at AirTran.


AirTran received the last 717 built in 2006

AirTran reported a $30 million operating profit for 1999.

On August 15, 2001, the company's stock began trading under the ticker symbol AAI on the New York Stock Exchange.

In 2002, AirTran created a regional brand, AirTran JetConnect, operated by Air Wisconsin.

In 2003, following an order for 100 Boeing 737 aircraft, AirTran began service to Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport and to San Francisco.

On January 5, 2004, AirTran's last Douglas DC-9 was retired, leaving it with a fleet of more than 70 Boeing 717s. Shortly after, the first Boeing 737 entered AirTran's fleet in June 2004.

In August 2004, AirTran JetConnect (operated by Air Wisconsin) ceased all operations.

On May 23, 2006, AirTran accepted one of the last two Boeing 717s delivered in a ceremony with Midwest Airlines, who accepted the other 717.[4] Boeing closed the 717 line due to an overlap with the 737.

In November 2007, Robert L. Fornaro took over as CEO, as well as President.[5] Joe Leonard remained Chairman of the Board of Directors until June 2008. Upon his retirement, Fornaro then became Chairman making him Chairman, President and CEO.[6]

In 2009, AirTran was the first major airline to have 100% of its fleet outfitted with Gogo Inflight Internet, although other airlines had begun adding Internet before AirTran.

By 2009 AirTran underwent major expansion in smaller cities such as Yeager Airport (Charleston, WV); Asheville Regional Airport, NC; and Harrisburg International Airport, PA.[7]

Failed acquisitions

In 2004, AirTran sought a major expansion at Chicago-Midway Airport by buying the leases of ATA Airlines' 14 gates. Southwest Airlines made a higher bid for the gates, and AirTran lost the deal.

In December 2006, Air Tran Holdings announced that it had been trying to acquire Midwest Air Group. On August 12, 2007, AirTran announced its attempt to purchase Midwest Airlines had expired, while TPG Capital, in partnership with Northwest Airlines, had entered into an agreement to purchase Midwest Airlines for an amount larger than the AirTran Airways' proposal. However, on August 14, 2007, AirTran increased its offer to the equivalent of $16.25 a share, slightly more than the $16 a share from TPG Capital investors group.[8] However, Midwest announced TPG would increase its offer to $17 per share and a definitive agreement had been reached late on August 16, 2007.[9]

On September 21, 2007, AirTran pilots, represented by the National Pilots Association, rejected the carrier's contract proposal. Two weeks earlier, the pilots voted to dump the union president and vice president. On April 10, 2009, 87% of the pilots at AirTran voted to merge the National Pilots Association with the world's largest pilot union, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).[10]


An AirTran 737-700 which the airline continued to receive until the acquisition by Southwest

On April 6, 2010 AirTran Airways opened their second crew base, at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, the same day they officially announced Milwaukee as their second hub.

On July 27, 2010, AirTran Airways hosted the grand opening of their new System Operations Control (SOC) Center at Orlando International Airport. This 16,000-square-foot (1,500 m2), $6.9 million state-of-the-art command center serves as the 24-hour nerve center for the entire airline with over 700 flights per day. The company employs more than 1,000 crew members in central Florida at several facilities, including their corporate headquarters, the SOC and a maintenance facility in addition to passengers operations at the airport. After considering putting the SOC Center in Atlanta where AirTran has their largest hub, the decision was made to expand the facility in Orlando adjacent to AirTran’s headquarters.

In October 2010, a new crew base opened at Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida.[11] The base initially employed 100 pilots, including a chief pilot.

Prior to the winding down of the airline, AirTran grew to serve more than 70 cities coast-to-coast as well as in the Caribbean and Mexico with more than 700 flights per day and over 8,500 crew members serving nearly 25 million passengers per year.[6]

Buyout and wind-down

On September 27, 2010, Southwest Airlines announced they would acquire AirTran Airways for a total cost of $1.4 billion. The acquisition would give Southwest a significant presence at many of AirTran’s hubs such as Atlanta (then the largest U.S. city without Southwest service), Milwaukee, and expanded service in Baltimore and Orlando. With the merger, Southwest adds international service to several leisure destinations such as Cancún, Montego Bay and Aruba. Southwest will integrate AirTran's fleet of Boeing 737-700 series aircraft into Southwest Airlines brand and livery, and the Boeing 717 fleet will be leased out to Delta Air Lines starting mid-2013.[12] The airlines plan to have the acquisition completed and finalized within the next two years; until then, the carriers will operate as separate airlines.[13][14][15] The deal closed on May 2, 2011 and a single operating certificate for the combined carrier was achieved March 1, 2012.[16] Total integration of all employee groups between the two carriers is expected to be completed by 2015.

On February 14, 2013, Southwest Airlines announced that they had begun codesharing with AirTran. They took the first step on January 26, 2013, by launching shared itineraries in five markets. Southwest continued launching shared itineraries with 39 more markets beginning February 25, 2013. By April 2013, shared itineraries were scheduled to be available in all Southwest and AirTran cities (domestic and international).[17]

AirTran's final 737 operated flight was on November 30, 2014.

Southwest announced that the integration would be completed on December 28, 2014 with AirTran Airways Flight 1 as the final scheduled departure for the airline flying from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to Tampa International Airport (TPA). The flight used the callsign "Critter" as a nod to ValuJet. This route was ValuJet's first flight.[18]

Corporate affairs

Prior to the acquisition, the corporate headquarters of AirTran were located in Orlando, Florida.[19] The airline moved its headquarters to Orlando in 1994. Prior to that period, the headquarters were in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[20]

Employee relations

AirTran adopted an approach to employee recruitment similar to Southwest Airlines with an emphasis on functional skills and relational competence.[21] The airline had clear job specialization with the expectation of flexibility between jobs as required by day-to-day operational circumstances. AirTran’s training approach involved drawing the link between individual job performance, the airline’s overall financial performance and the importance of achieving high levels of customer service and efficiency.[21]


When the acquisition by Southwest was announced, AirTran served 69 destinations throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and abroad.[22]

Top served cities

Codeshare agreements

AirTran did not participate in any major global airline alliances, but the airline had a codeshare agreement with its parent airline, Southwest Airlines.[24]


An AirTran Airways Boeing 717 landing at BWI Airport
An AirTran Boeing 737-700

Prior to the acquisition by Southwest, the AirTran fleet maxed at the following aircraft:[25]

Before being acquired by Southwest, AirTran had orders for 65 additional 737-700s. In addition, AirTran's 717 fleet included the first and last 717 ever built.


At one time, AirTran had some A320s operated by Ryan International Airlines.


AirTran Airways operated a two-class configuration featuring Business Class and Economy Class. Business class included rows 1–3 and coach began with row 10; rows 4–9 are skipped for numbering purposes and 13 is skipped due to superstition.


AirTran's livery was primarily white, with teal on the ventral side. The sections were divided by parallel red and pink stripes, which ran horizontal at the front, and started to curve upward at the wings until they reached the top side of the plane at the back of the vertical stabilizer. The nacelles were royal blue, with "" written in white Helvetica font. The logo version of "AirTran" was written toward the front on either side in teal above the passenger windows and the vertical stabilizer was teal with a prominent white cursive "A", just like the beginning of the logo.

AirTran Airways also created several special livery aircraft. They included an aircraft featuring Elton John and Danica Patrick. AirTran also partnered with the Orlando/Orange County CVB to create a Boeing 717 aircraft emblazoned with a "Say YES to Orlando" logo on each side and a second Boeing 717 saying "Orlando Makes Me Smile," which celebrated AirTran Airways' partnership with the OOCVB to promote travel to the city. The airline also had an aircraft paying tribute to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.

Several aircraft featured sports-related liveries. The teams represented were the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Orlando Magic, and Milwaukee Brewers.

On February 12, 2010, AirTran Airways celebrated Little Debbie's 50th anniversary by launching a one-of-a-kind, custom-designed Boeing 717, dubbed Little Debbie 1.

Incidents and accidents

See also: Previous Incidents and Accidents at ValuJet


  1. ^ a b "AirTran Airways History". AirTran Airways. 2011. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-10. In 1992, the predecessor airline, ValuJet Airlines was founded by airline industry veterans... 
  2. ^ ValuJet Airlines#Fallout from the crash of Flight 592
  3. ^ "Healy to Head AirTran Planing". Orlando Business Journal. 
  4. ^ "New 717 Jets - AirTran Airways". 2006-05-23. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  5. ^ "Robert L. Fornaro, CEO". AirTran Airways. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  6. ^ a b "History". AirTran Airways. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  7. ^ "Route Map - AirTran Airways". 2004-05-01. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  8. ^ Daykin, Tom (2007-08-15). "AirTran circles back". Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  9. ^ Daykin, Tom (2007-08-17). "TPG to acquire Midwest". Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ "News Releases". 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  12. ^ "Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Boeing Capital reach a tentative Agreement to Sublease AirTran Boeing 717 Fleet". MarketWatch. May 22, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Southwest Agrees to Buy AirTran for $1.4 Billion". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. September 27, 2010. Archived from the original on 30 September 2010. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  14. ^ Smith, Aaron (September 27, 2010). "Southwest to acquire AirTran". CNN. 
  15. ^ [4] Archived September 30, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Topic Galleries". Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  17. ^ "Southwest Airlines And AirTran Airways Begin Connecting Networks - Southwest Airlines Newsroom". 2013-02-14. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  18. ^ "Southwest Airlines Announces New Flights For Dallas And D.C. Travelers; New Service To Mexico City And Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Now On Sale". PRNewswire. May 19, 2014. 
  19. ^ "investor relations overview." AirTran Airways. Retrieved on August 30, 2011. "AirTran Airways 9955 AirTran Boulevard Orlando, FL 32827"
  20. ^ "AirTran Airways History." (Archive) AirTran Airways. Retrieved on February 23, 2014.
  21. ^ a b Bamber, G.J., Gittell, J.H., Kochan, T.A. & von Nordenflytch, A. (2009). "Chapter 5: Alternative Strategies for New Entrants: Southwest vs. Ryanair". Up in the Air: How Airlines Can Improve Performance by Engaging their Employees. Cornell University Press, Ithaca. 
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "AirTran Airways". Retrieved 2014-01-27. 
  26. ^ NTSB incident number ATL07LA016:

External links

  • AirTran Airways website (redirects to Southwest Airlines main website)
  • AirTran mobile website (redirects to Southwest Airlines website)
  • Cheap airline travel in North America travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • Go inflight magazine [dead link]
  • AirTran Airways fleet
  • AirTran Airways fleet age
  • AirTran Airways seating charts
  • AirTran Airways' Yahoo! finance profile
  • AirTran Airways proposal to Midwest Airlines Board of Directors
  • With ValuJet in past, AirTran soars as others struggle, USA Today
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