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Aviation Industry Takes on New Look in 2010

Merger and acquisition are expected to have impact in Houston

Houston Airport System
December 17, 2010

Aggressive business moves continue to represent one of the top aviation stories in 2010, and both of the dominant air carriers in the Houston market are playing a key role in the industry shakeup.

Continental Airlines continues to move forward with its “merger of equals” with United Airlines, while Southwest Airlines is grabbing headlines with its plan to purchase AirTran Airways.


The deal between Continental and United, which will result in the creation of the world’s largest airline, is already having a positive impact on the Houston market.

The two airlines plan to launch new nonstop flights from Houston to a host of various domestic destinations in 2011.

Executives with United Airlines say other areas such as Latin America will remain a key focal point in the Houston operation as well.

“Houston is our gateway into Latin America,” says Stephanie Buchanan, IAH hub director for United Airlines.

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The aviation industry will likely look dramatically different in 2011.

“In the new United, Houston is going to maintain that strong gateway presence and it’s going to play a big part in our future growth plans.”

The new airline will eventually fly under the United name and full integration of the two carriers is expected to take between twelve and eighteen months.


The proposed deal from Southwest Airlines could result in the creation of the most expansive network of any low-cost carrier in the United States. Executives with Southwest are offering a bid of $1.4 billion for the purchase of low-cost competitor AirTran Airways.

Both airlines have operations at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). Southwest Airlines handles approximately 87 percent of the overall traffic at HOU, while AirTran Airways operates 39 departures per week, all of them to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

“The acquisition of AirTran represents a unique opportunity to grow Southwest Airlines’ presence in key markets we don’t yet serve and takes a significant step towards positioning us for future growth,” says Southwest Chairman, President and CEO Gary C. Kelly.

Kelly says future growth for Southwest could include the launch of international service from Southwest Airlines, in addition to expansions in the domestic route plans.

AirTran Airways already has flights in operation to popular tourist destinations in both the Carribean and Mexico.

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