Southwest Airlines continues to make changes as its Atlanta debut nears. The airline is currently building ticket counters, training supervisors and transitioning gates for its destination offerings at Hartsfield-Jackson, starting on Feb. 12. s
Southwest Airlines continues to evolve as it prepares for flight services at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The airline closed its purchase on AirTran Holdings Inc., on May 2011, the former parent company of AirTran Airways. Since then, changes have impacted Southwest and AirTran, which has a hub in Atlanta, according to Southwest Spokesman Brad Hawkins.
“The integration of AirTran and Southwest Airlines will proceed much more nicely on March 1, our target for getting the single operating certificate,” he said.
The single operating certificate, according to Hawkins, will be given to the airlines by the Federal Aviation Administration, which will allow the two airlines to operate as one. He said after the certificate is attained by Southwest, the integration process will be smoother and take an aggregate of two years.
“We’re now Southwest, operating and making decisions for AirTran,” said the spokesman.
On Jan. 16, Southwest trained the first wave of about 200 AirTran employees in Atlanta, Ga., Orlando, Fla., and Milwaukee, Wis. They are responsible for areas such as marketing, communications, human resources and finance, he said.
Ticket counters are currently being built, supervisors are being trained, and gates are being transitioned for Southwest’s February launch, Hawkins said. The gates include work and children’s areas.
Fifteen non-stop flights to five cities will be offered by Southwest to, and from, Hartsfield-Jackson starting Feb. 12. The cities and flights include: Four daily round-trips to Baltimore, Md., and Chicago, Ill.; three daily trips to Houston, Texas, and two daily trips to Denver, Colo., and Austin Texas — a destination previously not offered by AirTran.
On March 10, Hawkins said, Southwest will start two more non-stop flights to, and from, Hartsfield-Jackson, to Las Vegas, Nev., and Phoenix, Ariz. The airline will offer one-way fares for $109 for both destinations until April 7.
“An expansion like this quickly solidifies our commitment to the Atlanta market before we've actually started service there," said Bob Jordan, Southwest Airlines executive vice president of Strategy and Planning, and AirTran Airways president.
A daily non-stop flight to Los Angeles, Calif., will begin on June 10, at Hartsfield-Jackson, said spokesman Hawkins. This is an addition to the three daily flights already operated by AirTran.
The Southwest brand will eventually trickle over to all cities covered by AirTran, he said. City conversations will be determined by the number of AirTran aircraft altered to the Southwest brand, and a requisite number of employees for those destinations. He said he can’t release numbers at this time.
“We are the largest carrier in terms of domestic passengers boarded,” he added. “We are plugging Atlanta into that giant network, now, and the giant network into Atlanta.”
The airline has a variety of attractive services and perks, such as open seating, no fees for the first checked two bags, and orderly boarding, which lets passengers board in the order they checked in, he explained.
“We are just very, very excited,” said Hawkins. “Atlanta –– at last.”