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Southwest Airlines Announces Plan to Buy AirTran Airways

$1.4 billion deal would combine low cost operations under Southwest name

Houston Airport System
September 27, 2010

© Houston Airport System
AirTran Airways chairman, president and CEO Bob Fornaro (left) and Southwest Airlines chairman, president and CEO Gary C. Kelly

Southwest Airlines, the largest air carrier at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), has announced plans to purchase low-cost airline AirTran Airways for $1.4 billion.

The deal between Southwest and AirTran is subject to approval with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), which could take months to obtain.

While that process moves forward, and up until the closing process is complete, both carriers will continue to operate as independent companies.

The move would immediately give Southwest Airlines access to the nation’s busiest airport in Atlanta, and would also establish a Southwest presence in Washington, D.C., Mexico and the Carribean.

“It presents us the opportunity to extend our service to many smaller domestic cities that we don’t serve today,” said Gary C. Kelly, chairman, president and CEO of Southwest Airlines. “It also provides us with access to key leisure markets in the Carribean and Mexico.”

In addition to its domestic routes, AirTran Airways also flies to Cancun, Aruba, Montego Bay, Jamaica, Nassau, Bahamas and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Both Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways have operations at William P. Hobby Airport, with the two airlines combining to handle more than 90 percent of the overall traffic recorded at HOU in 2009.

Southwest Airlines has a long history in the Houston market.

In 1971, Southwest began flight operations from three Texas cities: Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.

Today, Southwest moves more than 7 million passengers through Hobby and this change positions the airline to grow its business even more in Houston.

Based on current operations, the combined organization would have nearly 43,000 employees and would serve more than 100 million customers annually from more than 100 different airports.

“Joining Southwest Airlines will give us opportunities to grow, both professionally as individuals and as a group, in ways that simply would not have been possible without this agreement,” said Bob Fornaro, AirTran Airways’ chairman, president and CEO.

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