Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways customers will soon be able to book flights to any of the airlines’ combined 97 destinations, including international destinations, in one transaction.
“Connecting the networks is a priority in 2013 and a major milestone as we work to combine our two companies,” says Bob Jordan, chief commercial officer of Southwest Airlines and president of AirTran Airways.
Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways took the first step in connecting their networks on January 26, by offering a small number of shared itineraries in five markets. The initial phase was successful, according to Southwest, and the airlines are prepared to offer shared itineraries at 39 more cities on February 25.
The airline says it is on pace to connect the networks fully in April. This means that the two carriers effectively will be codesharing on every route in each of their networks.
Connecting the Southwest and AirTran networks will mean customers can add one or more AirTran domestic flight segments to a Southwest itinerary, using Southwest booking channels.
Additionally, passengers will be able to book one or more Southwest flight segments connecting to an AirTran itinerary, using AirTran booking channels. They will also be able to use all Southwest channels to book an AirTran-only domestic itinerary.
Customers will also be able to add an international AirTran segment to a Southwest itinerary within a single reservation, through a customer-friendly transfer of the transaction to AirTran channels for booking, purchase, and ticketing by AirTran.
They will also be able to earn points in either loyalty program no matter which carrier they fly. (The currency a passenger earns is determined by the carrier from which the ticket is bought, even if the customer is flying on a shared itinerary.)
As is standard with industry codeshare arrangements, the rules and policies of the carrier marketing an itinerary will apply to reservations and ticketing of the itinerary. However, the operating carrier’s procedures apply to boarding, seating, and the on-board experience.
Southwest is making one exception to this arrangement: Any itinerary with a Southwest segment or that is purchased through a Southwest point-of-sale channel will not have bag fees for the first or second checked bag. However, weight and size restrictions apply.
Passengers can find specific details and answers to frequently asked questions by visiting www.southwest.com.
Customers will continue to earn and redeem points through the frequent flyer loyalty programs of their marketing carrier, regardless of the operating carrier on which they travel. Southwest recommends that its passengers should be enrolled in both Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards and AirTran Airways A+ Rewards programs in order to earn currency from whichever airline they purchase a ticket.
Loyalty-program members also have the ability to transfer their currency between the two programs. For more information about transferring loyalty currency, visit rewardsfarther.com.
Southwest Airlines announced its plan to acquire AirTran Airways on September 27, 2010. To date, 29 per cent of AirTran employees have transferred to Southwest.
Additionally, Southwest has converted 11 AirTran Airways Boeing 737-700 jets to the Southwest paint scheme and interior configuration, and has transitioned five formerly AirTran Airways-served cities into Southwest Airlines operations.
Southwest expects to complete the full integration of the AirTran Airways 737 fleet into the Southwest Airlines fleet and the transition to a single ticketing system by the end of 2014.