AirTran Fans Issue a SOS to Southwest

By Scott Friedman
|  Wednesday, Nov 3, 2010  |  Updated 10:15 AM CDT
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Southwest Buys AirTran

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Travelers, Employees Weigh In on Southwest-AirTran Deal

The move puts Southwest in head-to-head competition with Delta Air Lines in Atlanta.

Southwest Buys AirTran

Analysts say the $1.4 billion merger between Southwest Airlines and AirTran will affect fares and the number of flights available to millions of passengers.
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An on-line petition drive aims to send an "S.O.S." to Dallas based Southwest Airlines.  S.O.S., in this case, stands for "Save Our Seats". 

The authors of the petition want Southwest to keep AirTran's business class seats when Southwest completes its purchase of Orlando based AirTran. They also want Southwest to get rid of its open seating policy.  The petition reads, in part: "We care about assigned seating because we're families who want to sit together and business professionals who want certainty even if we're the last to board."

The Wichita Business Journal reports the spokesman for the petition drive is a rabid AirTran frequent flier named Joe Leader, who's even named his dog AirTran. 

Currently, Southwest has all single class, coach cabins on its fleet of Boeing 737's.  AirTran flies a two class configuration, allowing travelers to pay $49 to upgrade to business class seats before their flights.  Southwest passengers board in groups and choose their seats as they get onto the plane.  AirTran passengers can pay a fee to reserve a seat in advance.

Southwest is unlikely to be swayed by the move, despite the petition group's claim that it has already collected hundreds of signatures.  Southwest CEO Gary Kelly has previously acknowledged that the airline knows it may lose some customers over it's seating design and policies.

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