Southwest + AirTran

I was actually pretty excited to find out this morning that Southwest is acquiring AirTran. I’ve had a pretty good set of experiences on both of these budget carriers over the years. Plus AirTran has more flights out of the Washington area to places that Southwest doesn’t fly, making it easier for me to travel on a carrier I like. From the SWA press release:

This acquisition…offers Customers more low-fare destinations as we extend our network and diversify into new markets, including significant opportunities to and from Atlanta, the busiest airport in the U.S. and the largest domestic market we do not serve, as well as Washington, D.C. via Ronald Reagan National Airport [sic*]. The acquisition also allows us to expand our presence in key markets, like New York LaGuardia, Boston Logan, and Baltimore/Washington. It presents us the opportunity to extend our service to many smaller domestic cities that we don’t serve today, and provides access to key near-international leisure markets in the Caribbean and Mexico.

The Washington area has three airports – National (DCA), Dulles (IAD) and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI). Dulles and BWI are between 45 minutes and an hour away from northwest Washington, while National is about ten to fifteen minutes by car and slightly longer by Metro. While BWI is accessible via the MARC commuter rail and Amtrak, Dulles has no public transportation access and is about a $70 cab ride or $40 Super Shuttle. As a result, the only convenient airport option in DC for me is from DCA. Southwest is primarily out of BWI and does not have flights from DCA – so flying a carrier I like has meant added travel time and costs to do it, which really isn’t an appealing combination. Getting to fly a carrier I like from an airport that is convenient is a huge plus for me, so I definitely approve of this merger.

* NB: only Republicans call it Reagan. The rest of us call it National or DCA.

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