Howard, a consumer advocate and host of his own radio program on AM 750 and now 95.5FM News/Talk WSB says that Southwest’s move into Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is a huge bonus for local passengers.
“I am just ecstatic,” Howard said. “It’s like my birthday and my wedding day, the whole thing at once. This is really big. Southwest is the most important player in the airline industry and Atlanta is the biggest airport operation in the country. It’s been so weird that Southwest flies to LaGuardia, but not Atlanta.”
Why all the excitement?
Southwest, which flew only as close to Atlanta as Birmingham, will give travelers more choices to fly at lower fares. In markets where both airlines have existed — Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla., for instance — fares are considerably lower than they are where only of the airlines has a foothold.
“The difference in fares is just shocking,” Howard said. “There are a lot of places where you will get a better deal.”
Southwest and AirTran said the new airline will operate from more than 100 airports and serve more than 100 million customers.
Southwest does not beat out AirTran in all areas, though. While Southwest has less expensive flights on shorter flights, AirTran is a better bargain generally for longer flights. AirTran has a more generous frequent flyer program and its credit card is better, Howard said. Southwest, however, has lower baggage fees. It does not charge anything for the first two checked bags. With Southwest in Atlanta, passengers can also expect more destinations.
Atlanta was almost an add-on in the $1.4 billion transaction, Howard said.
“Atlanta is not core to what Southwest is thinking,” Howard said.
The ability to fly more prominently in the northeast, where AirTran has had great leverage, was key to the deal, Howard said. In Baltimore, both have existed, but AirTran has “been bugging the daylights out of Southwest,” Howard said. “Now, they eliminate the flea on the elephant.”
“I’ve been hoping for this day for 20 years,” he said. “Ever since Eastern Airlines went away.”
Question: What do you think of this news? Are you glad to see Southwest come to Atlanta? Do you think you’ll find cheaper flights?