|Commenced operations||October 26, 1993, as ValuJet Airlines
November 17, 1997, as AirTran Airways
|Ceased operations||December 28, 2014Southwest Airlines)(Integrated into|
|Frequent-flyer program||A+ Rewards|
|Company slogan||Go. There's nothing stopping you.|
|Parent company||Southwest Airlines Co. NYSE: LUV|
|Headquarters||Orlando, Florida, U.S.|
AirTran Airways (formerly ValuJet), most commonly stylized as airTran, was an American low-cost airline headquartered originally in Orlando, Florida. AirTran operated nearly 700 daily flights, primarily in the eastern and midwestern United States, with its principal hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport where it operated nearly 200 daily departures. AirTran's fleet consisted of Boeing 717-200 aircraft, of which it was the world's largest operator, and Boeing 737-700 aircraft.
AirTran Airways was acquired by Southwest Airlines in early 2011, which commenced gradual procedure of its full integration. AirTran's final flight was operated on November 30, 2014, and it was fully integrated into Southwest Airlines on December 28, 2014.
The original AirTran Airways, a Boeing 737-200 operator with service to/from Orlando, was founded by AirTran Corporation, the holding company of Mesaba Airlines of Minneapolis, Minnesota, operating as a Northwest Airlink carrier with hubs in Minneapolis and Detroit. In 1994, AirTran Holdings purchased a start up 737 operator named Conquest Sun and renamed the airline AirTran Airways. Conquest Sun, similar to ValuJet, was an airline started by former Eastern Air Lines employees. The original AirTran Airways moved its headquarters to Orlando, Florida, and grew to 11 Boeing 737 aircraft serving 24 cities in the East and Midwest providing low-fare leisure travel to Orlando. In 1995, AirTran Airways was spun off by Mesaba and formed its own independent holding company named Airways Corporation.
Following two serious accidents (flight 597 and flight 592), both blamed on a lax corporate culture on safety at ValuJet, on September 24, 1997, ValuJet Airlines merged with AirTran and changed its name to AirTran Airlines, with ValuJet holding company ValuJet, Inc. changing its name to AirTran Holdings, Inc. While ValuJet was the nominal survivor and the merged company retained ValuJet's stock price history, the merged airline took the AirTran name in hopes of distancing itself from ValuJet's troubled past. In the summer of 1998, the two airlines merged onto the same FAA certificate under the AirTran name. While the hub remained at ValuJet's home in Atlanta, the merged airline moved to legacy AirTran's former headquarters in Orlando on January 28, 1998.
The airline received criticism for the name change with Time magazine writing, "In a corporate disappearing act, the troubled airline bought a smaller rival and adopted its name, becoming AirTran Airways." The Los Angeles Times wrote in the Summer of 1997, "After more than a year of reminding too many people of a disaster rather than low fares, ValuJet on Thursday said it would take a new name. ValuJet is buying a much smaller airline, AirTran Airways, from Airways Corp. for $66.3 million worth of stock and taking its name."
In an article in The Atlantic entitled "The Lessons of ValuJet 592," William Langewiesche presents a case in which the May 11, 1996 crash in the Florida Everglades as an example of a system accident, in which the complexity of the overall operation was the major contributing factor. Taking a contrary position, Brian Stimpson argues in the Manitoba Professional Engineer that there are other examples of studied complex operations which have been routinely performed safely for many years, with such examples including large aircraft carriers and the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Station in California.
For the remainder of its existence, AirTran made almost no mention of its past as ValuJet. On the 10th anniversary of the Flight 592 crash, AirTran made no major corporate announcements out of respect for the victims' families.
In January 1999, a new management team led by Joe Leonard, a veteran of Eastern Air Lines and Robert L. Fornaro, of US Airways, took the reins at the airline. The two recruited a new senior management team including Stephen J. Kolski, Operations, Kevin P. Healy, Planning, and Loral Blinde, Human Resources. The immediate goals were to stabilize the balance sheet and prepare to refinance debt due in early 2000, fix the operations, increase and establish revenue streams and prepare for delivery and operation of the Boeing 717. AirTran was the launch customer and ultimately the largest operator of this brand new aircraft. At the same time, Leonard was determined to not only lead the turn around of the carrier, but establish a culture of trust and entrepreneurship at AirTran.
This section is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (February 2016)
AirTran reported a $30 million operating profit for 1999.
On August 15, 2001, the company's stock began trading under the ticker symbol AAI on the New York Stock Exchange.
On January 5, 2004, AirTran's last McDonnell Douglas DC-9 was retired, leaving it with a fleet of more than 70 Boeing 717s. Shortly after, the first Boeing 737 entered AirTran's fleet in June 2004.
In August 2004, AirTran JetConnect (operated by Air Wisconsin) ceased all operations.
On May 23, 2006, AirTran accepted one of the last two Boeing 717s delivered in a ceremony with Midwest Airlines, who accepted the other 717. Boeing closed the 717 line due to an overlap with the 737.
In November 2007, Robert L. Fornaro took over as CEO, as well as President. Joe Leonard remained Chairman of the Board of Directors until June 2008. Upon his retirement, Fornaro then became Chairman making him Chairman, President and CEO.
In 2009, AirTran was the first major airline to have 100% of its fleet outfitted with Gogo Inflight Internet, although other airlines had begun adding Internet before AirTran.
In December 2006, Air Tran Holdings announced that it had been trying to acquire Midwest Air Group. On August 12, 2007, AirTran announced its attempt to purchase Midwest Airlines had expired, while TPG Capital, in partnership with Northwest Airlines, had entered into an agreement to purchase Midwest Airlines for an amount larger than the AirTran Airways' proposal. However, on August 14, 2007, AirTran increased its offer to the equivalent of $16.25 a share, slightly more than the $16 a share from TPG Capital investors group. However, Midwest announced TPG would increase its offer to $17 per share and a definitive agreement had been reached late on August 16, 2007.
On September 21, 2007, AirTran pilots, represented by the National Pilots Association, rejected the carrier's contract proposal. Two weeks earlier, the pilots voted to dump the union president and vice president. On April 10, 2009, 87% of the pilots at AirTran voted to merge the National Pilots Association with the world's largest pilot union, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).
On April 6, 2010 AirTran Airways opened their second crew base, at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, the same day they officially announced Milwaukee as their second hub.
On July 27, 2010, AirTran Airways hosted the grand opening of their new System Operations Control (SOC) Center at Orlando International Airport. This 16,000-square-foot (1,500 m2), $6.9 million state-of-the-art command center serves as the 24-hour nerve center for the entire airline with over 700 flights per day. The company employs more than 1,000 crew members in central Florida at several facilities, including their corporate headquarters, the SOC and a maintenance facility in addition to passengers operations at the airport. After considering putting the SOC Center in Atlanta where AirTran has their largest hub, the decision was made to expand the facility in Orlando adjacent to AirTrans headquarters.
In April 2011, AirTran had the best safety record among U.S. carriers as measured by the number of incidents such as bird strikes. AirTran was first with only 0.0000196 incidents per flight, Southwest second with 0.0000203, and US Airways third with 0.0000203 incidents per flight. Bill Voss, who was then head of the Flight Safety Foundation, said "the safety record in the U.S. is so good that it's very difficult to find enough accidents or incidents to draw much of a conclusion about who's safest."
Prior to the winding down of the airline, AirTran grew to serve more than 70 cities coast-to-coast as well as in the Caribbean and Mexico with more than 700 flights per day and over 8,500 crew members serving nearly 25 million passengers per year.
|Wikinews has related news: Southwest Airlines to purchase AirTran Airways for US$1.4 billion|
On September 27, 2010, Southwest Airlines announced they would acquire AirTran Airways for a total cost of $1.4 billion. The acquisition gave Southwest a significant presence at many of AirTrans hubs such as Atlanta (then the largest U.S. city without Southwest service), Milwaukee, and expanded service in Baltimore and Orlando. With the merger, Southwest added international service to several leisure destinations such as Cancún, Montego Bay and Aruba. Southwest integrated AirTran's fleet of Boeing 737-700 series aircraft into Southwest Airlines brand and livery, and the Boeing 717 fleet was then leased out to Delta Air Lines starting mid-2013. The airlines planned to have the acquisition completed and finalized within two years with the two carriers operating as separate airlines in the interim. The deal closed on May 2, 2011, and a single operating certificate for the combined carrier was achieved March 1, 2012. Total integration of all employee groups between the two carriers was completed in 2015.
On February 14, 2013, Southwest Airlines announced that they had begun codesharing with AirTran. They took the first step on January 26, 2013, by launching shared itineraries in five markets. Southwest continued launching shared itineraries with 39 more markets beginning February 25, 2013. By April 2013, shared itineraries were scheduled to be available in all Southwest and AirTran cities (domestic and international).
AirTran's final flight was operated with a Boeing 717-200 on December 28, 2014.
Southwest announced that the integration would be completed on December 28, 2014, with AirTran Airways Flight 1 as the final scheduled departure for the airline flying from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to Tampa International Airport (TPA). The flight used the callsign "Critter" as a nod to ValuJet. This route was ValuJet's first flight.
Prior to the acquisition, the corporate headquarters of AirTran were located in Orlando, Florida. The airline moved its headquarters to Orlando in 1994. Prior to that period, the headquarters were in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
AirTran adopted an approach to employee recruitment similar to Southwest Airlines with an emphasis on functional skills and relational competence. The airline had clear job specialization with the expectation of flexibility between jobs as required by day-to-day operational circumstances. AirTrans training approach involved drawing the link between individual job performance, the airlines overall financial performance and the importance of achieving high levels of customer service and efficiency.
When the acquisition by Southwest was announced, AirTran served 69 destinations throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and abroad.
|City||Daily departures||Number of gates||Cities served nonstop||Service began|
|Washington, D.C. (Reagan)||11||3||3||2003|
Before the Southwest merger, AirTran had orders for 65 additional 737-700s. These orders were transferred to Southwest Airlines.
In addition, AirTran's 717 fleet included the first and last 717 ever built.
Since Southwest operates an all-737 fleet, AirTran's 88 former 717s are currently on lease with Delta Airlines.
AirTran Airways operated a two-class configuration featuring Business Class and Economy Class. Business class included rows 13 and coach began with row 10; rows 49 were skipped for numbering purposes and 13 was skipped due to superstition.
AirTran's livery was primarily white, with teal on the ventral side. The sections were divided by parallel red and pink stripes, which ran horizontal at the front, and started to curve upward at the wings until they reached the top side of the plane at the back of the vertical stabilizer. The nacelles were royal blue, with "airtran.com" written in white Helvetica font. The logo version of "AirTran" was written toward the front on either side in teal above the passenger windows and the vertical stabilizer was teal with a prominent white cursive "A", just like the beginning of the logo.
AirTran Airways also created several special livery aircraft. They included an aircraft featuring Elton John and Danica Patrick. AirTran also partnered with the Orlando/Orange County CVB to create a Boeing 717 aircraft emblazoned with a "Say YES to Orlando" logo on each side and a second Boeing 717 saying "Orlando Makes Me Smile," which celebrated AirTran Airways' partnership with the OOCVB to promote travel to the city. The airline also had an aircraft paying tribute to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.
|ValuJet Flight 597
||June 8, 1995||Douglas DC-9-32||Atlanta, Georgia||The flight suffered an aborted takeoff after a catastrophic engine failure which was caused by rusted engine components. Shrapnel from the right engine penetrated the fuselage and the right engine main fuel line erupting a cabin fire. The airplane was stopped on the runway, and captain Greg Straessle ordered evacuation. One flight attendant received serious puncture wounds from shrapnel and thermal injuries, and another flight attendant received minor injuries. Of the 57 passengers on board, five suffered minor injuries.||1||6|
|ValuJet Flight 592
||May 11, 1996||Douglas DC-9-32||Florida Everglades||This flight crashed in the Everglades due to a fire caused by the activation of oxygen generators which use a high-temperature chemical reaction that were illegally shipped in the cargo hold. The fire damaged the airplane's electrical system and eventually overcame the crew, resulting in the deaths of all five crew members and 105 passengers on board. The airplane was on its way from Miami to Atlanta.||110|
|AirTran Airways 426
||May 7, 1998||Douglas DC-9-32||Calhoun, GA||Flight crew failed to maintain adequate separation from hazardous meteorological conditions. The investigation revealed that the captain had been involved in two other air carrier incidents involving adverse weather conditions. It also revealed that the airline lacked adequate training and guidance regarding hazardous weather interpretation and avoidance, as well as adequate procedures to notify flight attendants about potential turbulence. A flight attendant and a passenger were seriously injured during a turbulence encounter.||2|
|AirTran Airways 867
||November 1, 1998||Boeing 737-200||Atlanta, GA||Lost control and skidded off of the runway while landing, with main landing gear in a drainage ditch and its empennage extending over the taxiway. The nose gear was folded back into the electrical/electronic compartment and turned 90 degrees from its normal, extended position. The cause was an improperly repaired hydraulic line leak.||13|
|AirTran Airways 913
||August 8, 2000||Douglas DC-9-32||Greensboro, NC||The flight crew executed an emergency landing at Greensboro. Shortly after takeoff the flight crew declared an emergency due to an in-flight fire and smoke in the cockpit. An emergency evacuation was performed. Of the 58 passengers and 5 crewmembers on board, 3 crewmembers and 5 passengers received minor injuries from smoke inhalation. Five passengers and one ground crewmember received minor injuries during the evacuation. The airplane sustained substantial fire, heat, and smoke damage and was written off. The flight was operating to Atlanta.||13|
|AirTran Airways 956
||November 29, 2000||Douglas DC-9-32||Atlanta, GA||The flight crew executed an emergency landing at Atlanta. Shortly after takeoff the flight crew observed that several circuit breakers had tripped and several annunciator panel lights had illuminated. After the landing, one of the flight attendants reported to the flight crew that smoke could be seen emanating from the left sidewall in the forward cabin; air traffic control personnel also notified the flight crew that smoke was coming from the airplane. The flight crew then initiated an emergency evacuation on one of the taxiways. Of the 2 flight crewmembers, 3 flight attendants and 92 passengers on board, 13 passengers received minor injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage and was written off. The flight was operating to Akron, OH.||13|
|AirTran Airways 527
||November 10, 2006||Boeing 717||Memphis, TN||The flight crew taxied the aircraft into a grass median. The nose landing gear impacted a concrete drainage ditch. The nose landing gear assembly had collapsed and the forward pressure bulkhead was punctured. According to the Airport Safety and Certification Division, FAA Southern Region, all of the taxiway signs and taxiway lights were lit and working properly at the time of the accident. The cause was the captain's inadequate visual look out during taxi.|
In 1992, the predecessor airline, ValuJet Airlines was founded by airline industry veterans...
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