Southwest-AirTran merger good for Knoxville

AIRTRAN+AIRWAYS+SOUTHWEST+M.jpgSouthwest Airlines announcement today that it intends to buy AirTran Airways could be good news for Knoxville air service.

Regional air travel advocates have tried for years to convince Southwest to come to Knoxville. AirTran is already in Knoxville, offering flights to Orlando.

If the merger goes through, Southwest could add AirTran flights in Knoxville.

At the very least, the Southwest-AirTran merger would put pressure on Delta Air Lines — the dominate airline serving Knoxville — which could mean lower ticket prices.

Nothing like a price war to make travelers smile.

The merger must be approved by regulators and shareholders.

AirTran returned to Knoxville in June 2009. The discount airline originally began serving Knoxville in 1994, but left six years later because of declining passenger volume.

“We’re excited about the opportunities for potential growth,” said Becky Huckaby, director of public relations for the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority.

Danni Varlan, president of East Tennesseans for Airfare Competition, said she is hopeful the merger will bring an increased number of flights and low fares for regional fliers.

“The possibilities are great but you don’t want to get your hopes too high. It’s very early in the (merger) process,” Varlan said.

More on the Southwest-Airtran deal:

New York Times

Atlanta Business Chronicle

Southwest announcement

Photo: submitted by AirTran