Southwest Airlines has confirmed its intent to retain AirTran Airways' operations at an additional 15 U.S. domestic airports and seven international airports, but Southwest...

Southwest Airlines has confirmed its intent to retain AirTran Airways’ operations at an additional 15 U.S. domestic airports and seven international airports, but Southwest is dropping six AirTran destinations.

Over time, Southwest will convert AirTran’s flights to Southwest operations at the 53 AirTran Airways destinations it has decided to keep, as the operational merger of the two carriers continues.

The 15 additional  U.S. airports to which AirTran will continue to operate and which will eventually join the Southwest Airlines route map are Flint, Michigan (FNT); Rochester, New York (ROC); Pensacola, Florida (PNS); Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT); Dayton, Ohio (DAY); Richmond, Virginia (RIC); Key West, Florida (EYW); Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA); Memphis, Tennessee (MEM); Akron-Canton, Ohio (CAK); Wichita, Kansas (ICT); Des Moines, Iowa (DSM); Branson, Missouri (BKG); Portland, Maine (PWM); and Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR).

Southwest Airlines operates an all-Boeing 737 fleet and its 737 fleet is the largest in the world

The seven additional AirTran Airways international destinations which Southwest is keeping include Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic (PUJ); Cancun, Mexico (CUN); Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ); Aruba (AUA); San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU); Bermuda (BDA); and Nassau in the Bahamas (NAS). AirTran service and employees at these airports are planned to convert to Southwest gradually over the course of AirTran’s integration into Southwest.

Southwest had previously announced that AirTran will begin serving Mexico City (MEX) on May 24 and San Jose Del Cabo in Mexico (SJD) on June 3, 2012. Those destinations also will convert from AirTran to Southwest operations over time.

Of the 69 cities AirTran served when Southwest acquired it on May 2, 2011, 53 cities will see conversion to full Southwest Airlines service.

“We are committed to continuing to serve these communities at first via AirTran, and eventually as Southwest,” says Bob Jordan, Southwest Airlines’ executive vice president & chief commercial officer and AirTran Airways’ president. “We know there are Southwest customers who want access to these cities, but have never before had the opportunity, and the markets have long desired Southwest service.”

Adds Jordan: “We are excited about the cities we have chosen to keep in our combined network. At the same time, there are some markets that we simply cannot make work in the current fuel environment, so we’ve had to make the decision to discontinue service in those locations.”

As of August 12, 2012, AirTran Airways will cease operations at Allentown, Pennsylvania (ABE); Lexington, Kentucky (LEX); Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (MDT); Sarasota, Florida (SRQ); Huntsville, Alabama (HSV); and White Plains, New York (HPN).

AirTran Airways has a total of 117 Boeing 737-700s in service and on order and numerically will be the most important type in AirTran's fleet for the foreseeable future. (The airline also operates 88 Boeing 717s but has indicated it may start disposing of some older 717s in the next few years.) AirTran operates its 737-700s in two-class configuration, with 12 premium-class seats and 125 economy-class seats

AirTran currently operates six daily non-stop flights at Sarasota and has 16 employees there. Its operations at Allentown (one daily non-stop flight), Lexington (two daily non-stop flights), Harrisburg (one daily non-stop flight), Huntsville (two daily non-stop flights) and White Plains (three daily non-stop flights) are all supported by AirTran’s contracted vendor partners.

AirTran will continue to operate at Allentown, Lexington, Harrisburg, Sarasota, Huntsville, and White Plains through August 11. Ticketed passengers, passengers holding reservations, or passengers desiring to make reservations for flights to or from these airports, have no need to alter their travel plans prior to Aug. 12, 2012.

Southwest and AirTran say their priority is to take excellent care of the employees, partners, and customers in these six locations. The carriers say AirTran employees at these locations have performed superbly and will have the opportunity to move elsewhere within AirTran, after operations cease on August 12, 2012.

“The airline industry continues to face many challenges, including significantly higher fuel costs,” says Jordan. “We must do everything we can to operate efficiently and profitably, align service with customer demand, and deliver the legendary customer service for which both airlines are known.”

As of August 12, Southwest will offer 41 flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), becoming the first jointly served airport to fully convert to Southwest Airlines service.

AirTran currently serves the market with one daily flight from SEA to Milwaukee (MKE) and seasonal service to both Atlanta (ATL) and Baltimore/Washington (BWI). Southwest will maintain the MKE, ATL, and BWI routes with direct and connecting service. Southwest and AirTran will announce future jointly served airport conversions as those specific plans are lined up.

The January 20 service announcements will be incorporated into both Southwest’s and AirTran’s flight schedules, to be published on January 22, for travel beginning August 12.