Southwest Airlines embarked on a new era today as it celebrated the last AirTran Airways revenue flight.
At 10:25pm EST, AirTran Airways Flight 1 departed Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Tampa Bay International Airport.
More than 400 AirTran and Southwest Employees and special guests gathered in Atlanta Sunday evening to commemorate the milestone. AirTran Flight 1 retraced a route that is a nod to AirTran's first commercial flight in October 1993. Flight 1's flight crew consisted of longtime AirTran Employees, including the airline's Chief Pilot, Floy Ponder, a 19-year veteran of AirTran Airways. Each of the flight's 117 passengers, consisting of many former AirTran Employees, retirees, special guests, and aviation enthusiasts received a special keepsake celebrating the historic flight.
"As we've grown in both the domestic and international markets, I can't help but think about all the doors the AirTran acquisition has opened for Southwest Airlines," said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines Chairman, President & CEO, who was in Atlanta for the send-off. "The most important things—which cannot be measured and are irreplaceable—are the great People of AirTran who have worked hard to achieve this milestone, and are all soon to be part of the Southwest Airlines family."
The acquisition of AirTran was a unique opportunity to extend the Southwest network into key markets it didn't yet serve, such as Atlanta and the greater Washington, D.C., area, via Ronald Reagan National Airport. The integration gives Southwest the opportunity to serve Customers from 93 airports in the U.S. and near-international destinations, providing Customers more low-fare destinations as it expands the well-known "Southwest Effect" to hundreds of additional low-fare itineraries for the traveling public.
Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran Airways in 2011.