AirTran to resume daily services
AirTran said its new seasonal daily service to Bermuda will resume this spring, and for now at least, passengers won’t have to grab the first seat they can find, which is parent company Southwest Airlines’ quirky policy.
The airline plans to bring back daily service to Bermuda from both Baltimore/Washington and Atlanta, Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins told
The Royal Gazette.
AirTran launched the Baltimore and Atlanta flights last summer and they boosted tourism from the southern US significantly. AirTran competes with Delta Air Lines on the Atlanta route.
According to 2011 tourism numbers, air arrivals from Georgia increased 53 percent, from 4,550 people in 2010 to 6,943. From Maryland, air arrivals rose 36 percent, from 6,190 people in 2010 to 8,403.
Even arrivals from Texas were up last year, by some 42 percent, from 3,845 in 2010 to 5,440. Southwest is based in Dallas, Texas.
This as air arrivals fell from some Northeast regions, including New York, where they dropped 11 percent, from 35,188 to 31,260, and from New Jersey, where they dipped nine percent, from 19,942 in 2010 to 18,061.
Visitor numbers from Washington DC fell by almost nine percent in the third quarter due to US Airways changing its schedule from daily to twice weekly. But Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert has said US Airways planned to resume its daily Washington DC service between June and September 2012.
The Southwest spokesman said daily service from Baltimore/Washington to Bermuda begins April 7 and from Atlanta, on May 26.
Mr Hawkins said connections to Bermuda will be available from more than 45 cities throughout the AirTran network including: Chicago, Orlando, Milwaukee and dozens of others.
Southwest last year acquired Orlando-based AirTran, the second-largest carrier in Atlanta.
AirTran continues to operate under its own name and teal-coloured tail until the planes are converted to Southwest’s red, orange and blue scheme.
Mr Hawkins said the Bermuda flights this season are expected to remain AirTran-branded, but will eventually be converted to the Southwest brand.
That means, they will continue to operate like AirTran, where seats are assigned and there is a business class.
Southwest allows passengers to choose their own seats and it offers only economy class.
“AirTran continues to be AirTran same brand, same seating, same policies ...” Mr Hawkins said. “When Southwest takes over the flying, our brand strengths will come along with the service - open seating, no fees for changing travel plans, no fees for first or second checked bag per customer, satellite-delivered Wi-Fi.”
He added: “We’re excited at the prospect of continuing this seasonal service to your beautiful island!”
According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the planned two-year aircraft conversion process has begun and will transform an AirTran Boeing 737-700 with 125 coach seats and 12 business class seats into a Southwest plane with 143 coach class seats.
In addition, the newspaper said, the all-coach cabin will have the new layout Southwest debuted last month, squeezing six more seats onto the plane with thinner seats and less recline.
AirTran’s seats are 18 inches wide; Southwest’s seats are 17 inches wide, according to SeatGuru.com.
Southwest’s new interior will have seat covers made of “E-Leather”.
Planes will also emerge with Southwest’s satellite-based Wi-Fi, instead of AirTran’s air-to-ground based Wi-Fi.
Southwest currently charges $5 for its Wi-Fi, while AirTran offers Gogo Wi-Fi service for $4.95 to $12.95 per flight, depending on the length of the flight.