Southwest Airlines and subsidiary AirTran Airways have received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a single operating certificate, marking a key milestone in the integration of the two airlines.
Full integration of the AirTran Airways fleet into the Southwest Airlines fleet (that is, repainting AirTran Airways’ aircraft and changing their interior configurations to give them a Southwest identity) is not complete.
The transition to a single ticketing system is a large and complex process that will take several years to complete, according to Southwest Airlines.
“While this is an important milestone and one that we are extremely proud to achieve, as a practical matter, most employees and customers will see little or no immediate difference in the two airlines’ flight operations, as allowed by having both carriers named on the single operating certificate,” says Mike Van de Ven, chief operating officer at Southwest Airlines.
“This will enable us to continue our integration in a coordinated and thoughtful manner while our customers will continue to receive the highest level of service and safety they have come to expect from both carriers,” adds Van de Ven.
On March 1, the FAA, Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways will amend the Southwest Airlines Air Carrier Operating Certificate to read “Southwest Airlines Co. and/or AirTran Airways Inc.” From now one, the two airlines will conduct operations under a single set of FAA operations specifications.
However, customers flying on AirTran will continue to make reservations or check in at airtran.com or by calling 800-247-8726, and visit AirTran kiosks and airport ticket counters. AirTran employees will still work on scheduled AirTran flights.
Customers flying on Southwest can continue to book or check in at southwest.com or by calling 800-435-9792, or at Southwest kiosks and airport ticket counters. Southwest employees will still work on scheduled Southwest flights. Customers will continue to earn and redeem currency through the respective frequent-flyer loyalty programs, as they do today. These programs will be integrated over time, according to Southwest.
“We cannot overstate the significance of having received our single operating certificate – it is a monumental step in the regulatory process – and achieving it enables us to move forward with the integration of the two airlines into a single carrier,” says Van de Ven.
Southwest Airlines announced plans to acquire AirTran Airways on September 27, 2010 and closed the deal to purchase AirTran Airways on May 2, 2011.
Throughout the next several years, Southwest Airlines will continue the process of integrating AirTran employees into the Southwest workforce, converting AirTran Airways aircraft to the Southwest paint scheme and interior configuration, and transitioning AirTran Airways gates to Southwest Airlines gates.
The first line station change-over to be completed will be at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in August this year.