Southwest Announces Plans to Buy AirTran Airways

By: Kallie Cart Email
By: Kallie Cart Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A major airline takeover is on the horizon, but will it mean more planes in the sky or will Yeager Airport in Charleston be left high and dry?

Southwest Airlines announced Monday that it plans to buy AirTran Airways. AirTran operates a popular flight out of Charleston, a non-stop flight to Orlando offered three days a week.

But airport officials are optimistic that the buyout will mean a boom in business.

"The fares will fall, the number of people flying will increase," Yeager Airport Director Rick Atkinson says. "So we think that there's a lot to look forward to with this merger."

Southwest Airlines is the world's largest low-cost carrier. It has entered into an agreement to buy AirTran for $1.4 billion.

Atkinson says AirTran services 39 cities which Southwest does not and could not because their planes are too big. He says the merger gives Southwest the opportunity to break into those cities, including Charleston.

"They said that we want to serve these 39 cities," Atkinson says. "That's one of the reasons they bought the airline."

Atkinson says Southwest has been successful in other cities comparable to the size of Charleston.

This is just the latest in a line of mergers and takeovers.

United and Continental airlines have joined forces in a deal nearing completion.

Continental currently just offers one flight per day to Houston out of Yeager. Atkinson says the merger between United and Continental may mean more options because the companies together will have more planes to share.

As for Southwest's plans to buy AirTran, there are still a lot of steps and government approvals that need to be completed before the deal is complete.

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