AirTran Airways to operate its last flight tomorrow

AirTran Airways (subsidiary of Southwest Airlines) (Orlando) as planned, will fly into the sunset tomorrow night. As previously report, the last flight, flight 1, will operate from the Atlanta former hub to Tampa, Florida, arriving just before midnight on December 28. The last flight will be operated with a Boeing 717.

The original AirTran Airways was founded by AirTran Corporation, the holding Company of Mesaba Airlines (Minneapolis/St. Paul), operating as a Northwest Airlink carrier with hubs in MSP and Detroit. In 1994, AirTran Holdings purchased a start up Boeing 737-200 operator named Conquest Sun Airlines and renamed the carrier AirTran Airways. Conquest Sun, similar to ValuJet Airlines, was an airline started by former Eastern Airlines employees. The original AirTran Airways moved its headquarters to Orlando and grew to 11 Boeing 737-200 aircraft with low-fare leisure flights to Orlando from small markets. In 1995, AirTran Airways was spun off by Mesaba and formed its own independent holding company named Airways Corporation.

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/ AirTran Airways acquired this ex-Air South Boeing 737-2L9 (originally delivered to Maersk Air) registered N465AT (msn 21528, ex N359AS) on June 16, 1995. N465AT wears the original 1993 livery.

Above Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection/  ValuJet’s Douglas DC-9-32 N906VJ (msn 47379) holds short of runway 09L at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). Low-fare ValuJet Airlines commenced scheduled flights on October 26, 1993.

On July 10, 1997, ValuJet, Inc., the holding company for ValuJet Airlines announced plans to acquire Airways Corporation, the holding company for AirTran Airways. After bad publicity due to the Everglades crash, ValuJet Airlines (Atlanta) on September 24, 1997 changed its name to AirTran Airlines. For several months in 1997 the two holding companies, even though they had not yet merged, operated under this AirTran brand. On November 17, 1997, ValuJet, Inc., acquired Airways, Inc., and renamed the holding company, AirTran Holdings, Inc. In the summer of 1998, the two airlines merged onto the same FAA certificate and the AirTran Airways name survived. While the hub remained in Atlanta, the headquarters of the new entity was combined in Orlando, on January 28, 1998.

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/ AirTran Airways inherited a large McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 fleet with the merger of AirTran Airlines (formerly ValuJet Airlines) into AirTran Airways (Orlando) in 1998. DC-9-32 N833AT (msn 47489) taxies across the tarmac at Miami dressed in the 1997 color scheme.

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/ AirTran Airways introduced the Boeing 717, the former McDonnell Douglas MD-95, on February 23, 1999 as the launch customer. The new type was introduced into revenue service on September 23, 1999 between the Atlanta hub and Washington (Dulles). AirTran was the largest operator of the type. 717-2BD N895AT (msn 55047) taxies to the gate at Miami on January 12, 2010 in the 2004 livery.

Above Copyright Photo: Roy Lock/ In 2003 AirTran Airways wanted to expand its route system from the Atlanta hub to the U.S. West Coast. However its short-range Boeing 717s (replacing the older DC-9-30s) could not make the West Coast without stops along the way, a competitive disadvantage against the larger Delta Air Lines. The company contracted with Ryan International Airlines to wet lease four Airbus A320s as a stop-gap measure until its new Boeing 737-700s arrived. The first A320 to arrive was N381LF (msn 640) on May 20, 2003. The A320s entered revenue service on June 4, 2003 on the Atlanta-Los Angeles route. This was the only time AirTran operated the A320. Ryan International’s A320-232 N391LF (msn 676) taxies to the gate at Los Angeles after arriving from ATL. It is painted in AirTran’s 1997 livery.

On September 27, 2010 Southwest Airlines (Dallas) announced it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire all of the outstanding common stock of AirTran Holdings, Inc. (Orlando), the parent company of AirTran Airways (Orlando), for a combination of cash and Southwest Airlines’ common stock. Southwest Airlines and AirTran up until now, have operated as independent companies. The integration of the two companies will now be accomplished with the last flight.

The Boeing 717s are being leased to Delta Air Lines.

Top Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/ AirTran Airways took delivery of its first Boeing 737-700 (N126AT) on June 10, 2004. The new type was introduced to revenue service a week later on June 17, 2004 on the Atlanta-Denver route as flight FL 303. Boeing 737-7BD N272AT (msn 33921) arrives in Miami. Blended Winglets were later added. Most of the 737-700s have transitioned to Southwest Airlines.

AirTran Airways operated many special color schemes. See all of them on the aircraft slide show below:

An AirTran Airways TV commercial from 2010:

Below: A route map from 2011.

AirTran logo

AirTran ATL Route Map