On the heals of the United/Continental merger which will take effect in just 5 days, another merger has been announced.
Southwest Airlines plans to buy Airtran for $1.4 billion.
Of course with each merger there is less competition which means we’re stuck paying higher fares.
But what I’m really bummed about is losing my 2 favorite airlines the same year!
Continental is a great airline with great policies. I outlined some of them in the post on the current amazing credit card offer. There is some hope though that at least some of Continental’s policies will stay in place at the new United as the Continental CEO will be running the new airline.
Airtran however, is toast! They are my favorite low-cost carrier by leaps and bounds and Southwest is my least favorite.
Airtran offers many of the amenities of the major carriers while still offering low prices. Southwest does not.
-Assigned seats: Airtran offers them. Southwest makes you line up in some cockamamie order to run and get one of the 2 good seats on their planes. Southwest has already announced that the combined airline will not have assigned seats. See exhibit A:
-Elite status: Airtran has one of the easiest elite statuses to attain in the industry and it’s even easier to maintain with just 6 flights needed or you can buy it back for just $399. And it has great benefits like free exit rows, free business class upgrades at the gate, guaranteed seat availability, free checked luggage, longer lasting A+ credits…
-Business class: Airtran has it, Southwest doesn’t. I flew last year with 3 family members on Airtran from LaGaurdia to Akron. All 4 of us got upgraded to business class for free because of my elite status. Free snacks (including kosher ones!), free drinks, large roomy leather seats, I was hooked! Southwest has already announced that the combined airline will not have a business class section.
-W-Fi: Airtran has it fleet-wide. Southwest doesn’t.
-Boeing 717: I love the 717. It’s a very quiet plane (especially in the front) and it has just 2 seats on the left side of coach. It makes up the bulk of the Airtran fleet. Southwest has been committed to only Boeing 737s for years. What will happen to the 717s?
-Airtran U: I used this so many times when I was younger… If you are between 18-22 you can hop on any flight on a standby basis for dirt cheap. Need to go from Akron to LaGuardia last minute? It’s just $49 with Airtran U!
-Airtran’s A+ mileage program is awesome. Just 2 flights are enough for a free upgrade, 4 flights are enough for a a free one-way flight. Plus you get bonus points for business class flights. But what is really cool are their other airline awards. 32 credits and they’ll buy you a ticket in the US on any other airline. 50 credits and they’ll buy you a ticket to Hawaii on any other airline. 100 credits and they’ll buy you a ticket to anywhere in the world on any other airline!
-Airtran’s corporate program allows me to give passengers free premium seat assignments and free checked bags as well as possible upgrades. I’ve been doing this for readers for the past couple months and people have loved it!
Yes there are good parts to Southwest, but I hope to never have to fly them. And have you ever seen their check-in lines? Why are they always so uncontrollably long? And don’t get me started again on the cattle call boarding and race to the exit row seat.
This merger is a crying shame for passengers…
And mark my words, this isn’t the end of the madness. AA-USAir? Virgin-Jetblue? I wonder what the next move will be?