AirTrans Airlines, also known as AirTran Airways, was founded in 1992 with the creation of ValuJet Airlines in Georgia. The original founders were veterans of the airline industry. Former pilots, mechanics, attendants and executives from the old Eastern Air Lines.
AirTrans Airlines – ValuJet Origins
Using the free slots at Atlanta International Airport, ValuJet started with only two DC-9 aircraft. The first commercial flight took place between Atlanta and Tampa on 26 October, 1993. The airline was the first to launch travel without tickets in 1993.
After FAA investigation into crashes and cost-cutting the large amount of negative publicity led to financial problems. In 1997 Valujet announced it would merge with the much smaller Airways corporation, the parent company of AirTrans Airlines. In 1997 the company headquarters was moved to Orlando.
AirTrans Airlines – Beginnings
The original AirTrans Airlines, or AirTran Airways or TransAir Airlines was a Boeing 737 flight operator with services to Orlando. Mesaba airlines, the holding company, purchased a startup known as Conquest Sun and integrated the company. The new holding company was known as Airways Corporation.
In January 1999 a new management team emerged at AirTrans Airlines led by Joe Leonard and Robert Fornaro. In 2001 the company began trading on the NYSE under the ticker symbol AAI.
In October 2003 AirTrans Airlines begain services to Washington, DC. This was followed by flights to San Francisco in the following month.
AirTrans Airlines – Expansion
In 2003 AirTrans Airlines placed an order with Boeing for 100 737 jets. Later, in 2004 the last Douglas aircraft was scrapped and the company was left with a fleet of 70 Boeing 717s. The Boeing 737 entered the fleet in 2004.
In 2004, AirTrans Airlines attempted a major expansion at Chicago-Midway Airport by purchasing the leases of ATA Airlines’ 14 gates. Southwest Airlines offered a higher amount for the gates, and AirTrans lost out on the deal.
n December 2006, Air Tran Holdings announced that it had tried to buy Midwest Air Group. In 2007, AirTrans Airlines announced its effort to buy Midwest Airlines had expired, while TPG Capital, in conjunction with Northwest Airlines, had entered into a deal to purchase Midwest Airlines for an amount more than the AirTran Airways’ offer.
However, on August 14, 2007, AirTrans Airlines increased its offer over $16.25 a share, slightly more than the $16 a share from TPG Capital. But, Midwest announced TPG would raise its offer to $17 per share and a conclusive agreement was reached late on August 16.
In 2007, AirTrans Airlines pilots, represented by the National Pilots Association, refused the carrier’s contract proposal. Two weeks earlier, the pilots voted to remove the union president and vice president.
At November 2010, AirTrans Airlines network grew to over 70 cities coast-to-coast as well as in the Caribbean with more than 700 flights daily and over 8,500 crew members managing 25 million passengers per year.
AirTrans Airlines – Southwest Merger
In 2010, Southwest Airlines announced it would acquire Orlando-based AirTrans Airlines (Airways) for $1.4 billion. The acquisition gave Southwest a major presence at many of AirTran’s hubs such as Atlanta, Milwaukee, WI, and expanded Orlando.
With the merger, Southwest now has international service to many leisure destinations such as Cancún, Montego Bay and Aruba. Southwest is integrating AirTrans Airlines fleet of Boeing 717s and Boeing 737-700 series aircraft into Southwest Airlines brand. The airlines planned to have the acquisition completed and finalized within the next two years; until then, operations for both airlines will remain as separate carriers.
The deal completed on May 2, 2011 and a single operating airline certificate for the combined carrier is foreseen to be achieved March 2, 2012. Integration of employee groups between the two carriers has already begun, with AirTrans Airlines completely integrated by 2015
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