AirTran Airways is a low-cost airline that is a Delaware corporation with headquarters in Orlando, Florida, USA and is a subsidiary of AirTran Holdings. AirTran operates over 750 daily flights throughout the eastern USA and the Midwest, including over 270 daily departures from Atlanta. It is the world's largest Boeing 717 operator. AirTran's principal hub is at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and the airline's parent company, AirTran Holdings, is headquartered at Orlando International Airport, where AirTran also maintains a secondary hub.
In July 1997, AirWays Corporation announced a merger with ValuJet Airlines. In one of the U.S. airline industry's first reverse mergers, ValuJet was re-named AirTran Airways in 1997. This was done because the firm's public image never recovered from the crash of ValuJet Flight 592. On September 24, 1997 the parent company became AirTran Holdings Inc, and operations under new management began on September 1, 1998.
In October 1997, AirTran began assigning seats on its planes. AirTran has previously offered first come, first served, onboard seating (known by passengers as "the cattle call"), a practice popular with high-frequency, low-fare carriers (notably Southwest Airlines). The next month they added Business Class seats on every flight. Previously all flights had been in an all-coach (all-economy class) configuration. The old routes from Orlando by AirTran were systematically ended following the merger with ValuJet Airlines to focus on Atlanta. In March 1998, AirTran began a frequent flier program called A+ Rewards. In June 1998, Entrepreneur Magazine gave the airline its 1998 award for "Best Domestic Low-Fare Airline". The airline also won this award in 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005. In July 1998, AirTran reported its first profitable quarter since early 1996.
On September 24, 1999 AirTran Airways became the first airline in the world to take delivery of the Boeing 717; it entered service on October 12, 1999. On December 12, 2000, AirTran launched services from Atlanta to its first international destination, Grand Bahama Island.
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, AirTran reduced its flight schedule by 20%. However, on October 7, 2001, AirTran returned to its normal schedule. The airline also took temporary concessions from several employee groups, and restored pay 45 days later. On October 15, 2001, AirTran became the first airline in the nation to reinforce the cockpit doors on all of its aircraft. In November 2002, AirTran entered into an agreement with Air Wisconsin to provide regional jet service on some AirTran routes to free up Boeing 717 aircraft, a service called AirTran JetConnect. This agreement was terminated in mid-2004.
In June 2003, AirTran began new services operated by Ryan International Airlines to Denver, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles using Ryan International Airbus A320s painted in Air Tran livery, making it a coast-to-coast airline.
On January 5, 2004 AirTran's last Douglas DC-9 was retired, leaving it with a fleet of more than 70 Boeing 717s. The first Boeing 737 entered AirTran's fleet in June 2004, ending the service by Ryan. Later in 2004, AirTran sought a major expansion at Chicago-Midway Airport by buying the leases to ATA Airlines 14 gates. Southwest Airlines made a higher bid for the gates, and AirTran lost the deal.
On May 23, 2006, AirTran accepted one of the last two Boeing 717s delivered in a ceremony with Midwest Airlines, who accepted the other 717.
In November 2006, AirTran Airways partnered with Frontier Airlines, allowing frequent flyers to earn airline miles in either AirTran's A+ Rewards, or Frontier's EarlyReturns frequent flyer program. This is known as reciprocal earning (as opposed to reciprocal redemption). In addition the airlines will refer customers to each other when appropriate.
On January 10, 2007, AirTran started service to Daytona Beach (DAB) and to Newburgh (SWF) utilizing their Boeing 717 aircraft; the former of which was discontinued in mid-2008. Service to St. Louis began on May 8, 2007, and service to San Diego began on May 24, 2007. On February 22, 2007, AirTran announced new nonstops from their Atlanta hub (ATL) to Charleston, SC (CHS); five days later, on February 27, 2007, AirTran also announced the addition of new nonstops from Baltimore (BWI) and Orlando (MCO) to Portland, Maine (PWM).
In February 2008, AirTran announced daily non-stop service between Atlanta and San Antonio, which began on June 7, 2008. On May 21, 2008, AirTran also added Burlington, VT with three daily flights to Baltimore-Washington. Also, in September 2008, AirTran announced new service to Columbus, OH (CMH) and Harrisburg, PA (MDT).
Recently, AirTran has shifted its attention to building up their operations in Milwaukee at General Mitchell International Airport. The airline is now trying to compete directly with rival Midwest Airlines after Midwest chose not to agree to AirTran's bid to purchase the airline. AirTran has said that Mitchell Airport will become the airline's next focus city. AirTran was recently awarded 2 additional gates at General Mitchell International Airport which doubled their number of gates at the airport to 4.
On August 12, 2007, AirTran announced its attempt to purchase Midwest Airlines had expired, while TPG Capital, in partnership with Northwest Airlines, had entered into an agreement to purchase Midwest Airlines for an amount larger than the AirTran Airways proposal. However, on August 14, 2007, AirTran increased its offer to the equivalent of $16.25 a share, slightly more than the $16 a share from TPG Capital investors group. However, Midwest announced TPG would increase its offer to $17 per share and a definitive agreement had been reached late on August 16, 2007.
AirTran Airways currently flies to 56 destinations throughout the United States. Upcoming schedule changes will increase AirTran's destination count at 57 when the airline discontinues service to Savannah, Georgia on October 27, and begins service to Columbus, Ohio on November 6, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on November 20, 2008.
AirTran operates one of the youngest Boeing fleets in the industry. As of September 2008, AirTran has 141 aircraft in its fleet consisting of:
|Boeing 717-200||87||117 (12/105)||Launch customer |
Largest operator of the Boeing 717
Fleet includes First & Last 717 ever built
|Boeing 737-700||54 |
|137 (12/125)||All are equipped with winglets|
As of September 2008, AirTran's average fleet age was 4.8 years.
Many planes still carry the previous livery, which has a completely tan front divided from a completely teal rear by an oblique ring of parallel red and blue stripes just behind the wings. The livery coincided with the acquisition of ValuJet, and applied to all of ValuJet's DC-9s. The nacelles on the DC-9 are also teal in this livery, while the nacelles on the 737 went unpainted. The 717s, when introduced, received a paint scheme identical in pattern to the DC-9s. (737: N737Q, 717: N978AT, DC-9: N902VJ, A320: N941LF)
The original livery was primarily white and green on the dorsal side, and blue on the ventral side, with a red stripe roughly horizontal between. The nacelles in this livery went unpainted. No 717 or DC-9 was ever painted in the original livery. (737: N467AT)
Although ValuJet, which bought AirTran and decided to use the AirTran name, is infamous for the ValuJet Flight 592 disaster, the new combined airline under the name AirTran has not suffered an accident that has led to loss of life.
|AirTran Airways 867|
|November 1, 1998||Boeing 737-200||Atlanta, GA||Lost control and skidded off of the runway while landing, with main landing gear in a drainage ditch and its empennage extending over the taxiway. The nose gear was folded back into the electrical/electronic compartment and turned 90 degrees from its normal, extended position. The cause was an improperly repaired hydraulic line leak.||13|
|AirTran Airways 913|
|August 8, 2000||Douglas DC-9-32||Greensboro, NC||Executed an emergency landing due to an in-flight fire and smoke in the cockpit.||13|
|AirTran Airways 956|
|November 29, 2000||Douglas DC-9-32||Atlanta, GA||Executed an emergency landing shortly after takeoff, due to an electrical fire that caused smoke in the forward cabin.||13|
|AirTran Airways 356|
|March 26, 2003||Boeing 717-200||Flushing, New York, NY||PCDU failure that caused an electrical smell leading to a precautionary landing and evacuation.||1||22|
|AirTran Airways 852|
|March 5, 2004||Boeing 717-200||Atlanta, GA||Total electrical system failure.||5|