AirTran: A Nostalgic Journey Through Time And Sky
BY Sarmind SafiNov 22, 2023
AirTran Airways was an American low-cost airline originally headquartered in Orlando, Florida, which ceased operations after the acquisition of Southwest Airlines. AirTran Airways was founded in 1993 as Conquest Sun Airlines under the management of two small airlines, Destination Sun Airways and Conquest Airlines. They operated mainly Boeing 717s and 737s. It shuttled flyers around the US Midwest as well as the East Coast and stayed in business for 21 years. Why does it not operate anymore? What happened to AirTran? AirTran: A Brief Look Back Conquest Airlines' co-founder Victor Rivas was one of the founders of Conquest Sun. Who bought AirTran? AirTran Corporation in 1994 purchased the airline and renamed it AirTran Airways. It later exited from AirTran Corporation's new holding company, Airways Corporation. The holding company of ValuJet acquired the airline, and the holding company of Airways Corporation in 1997, which owned the struggling ValuJet Airlines. ValuJet's holding company became AirTran Holdings and merged with ValuJet Airlines' AirTran Airways. ValuJet Airlines, in turn, became "AirTran Airlines" before merging with AirTran Airways. Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran Airways and parent company AirTran Holdings on May 2, 2011. It gradually integrated them with AirTran's last revenue flight on December 28, 2014. It operates nearly 700 flights per day, primarily in the eastern and midwestern United States, with its main hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport serving nearly 200 daily departures. AirTran's fleet consisted of Boeing 717-200 aircraft, of which it was the largest operator in the world, and Boeing 737-700 aircraft. AirTran History Image Source This was founded in 1993 as Conquest Sun Airlines and began operations as an original Boeing 737-200 that flew to and from Orlando. AirTran Airways was founded by the management of both Destination Sun Airways and regional carrier Conquest Airlines. The founding of Destination Sun Airways is unclear. Which claims Destination Sun was founded in 1991 by former Northeastern International Airways CEO Guy Lindley and that the airline was formerly known as SunExpress and was based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Another source claimed that Destination Sun was founded in 1990 by a group of pilots, presumably former Eastern Air Lines pilots, as AirTran management later claimed that it was founded by former Eastern Air Lines employees. Rafael Rivas and Victor Rivas founded Conquest Airlines in April 1988 in Texas. Victor Rivas, one of the founders of Conquest Airlines, was also closely involved in the founding of Conquest Sun Airlines. In 1994, AirTran Corporation, the holding company of Minneapolis-based Mesaba Airlines, acquired Northwest Airlink from Northwest Airlines, with hubs in Minneapolis and Detroit. After the purchase, the airline changed from Conquest Sun Airlines to AirTran Airways to match the name of the holding company. The airline moved its headquarters to Orlando and grew to 11 Boeing 737s serving 24 cities in the eastern as well as midwestern United States, offering low-cost vacations to Orlando. In 1995, AirTran Corporation established a new subsidiary called Airways Corporation and placed it under the new subsidiary; AirTran Corporation then separated from the new Airways Corporation, becoming an independent holding that also owns AirTran Airways. After the separation, AirTran Corporation became Mesaba Holdings after its subsidiary Mesaba Airlines separated from AirTran Airways. AirTran Corporation/Mesaba Holdings then became MAIR Holdings, which liquidated in July 2012. Latest Developments On September 27, 2010, Southwest Airlines announced the acquisition of AirTran Airways and parent company AirTran Holdings for a total of $1.4 billion. The deal gave Southwest a significant presence in many AirTran hubs, including Atlanta (at the time the largest US city without Southwest service) and Milwaukee, as well as expanded service to Baltimore and Orlando. With the acquisition, Southwest added international service to several leisure destinations such as Cancún, Montego Bay, and Aruba. Southwest integrated AirTran's Boeing 737-700 series fleet with the Southwest Airlines brand and design, after which the Boeing 717 fleet leased out to Delta Air Lines beginning in mid-2013. The airlines planned to complete as well as close the deal within two years, with the two airlines operating as separate carriers in the interim. The deal closed on 2 May 2011, and the airline won a license on 1 March 2012. The full integration of all employee groups between the two airlines ended in 2015. On February 14, 2013, Southwest Airlines announced that it had entered into a codeshare agreement with AirTran. They took the first step on January 25, 2013, launching joint routes in five markets. As of February 25, 2013, Southwest continued to launch joint routes with 39 other markets. By April 2013, joint routes were to be available in all Southwest and AirTran cities (both domestic and international). Southwest announced that the integration would end on December 28, 2014, when AirTran Airways Flight 1 will be the airline's last Boeing 717-200 (N717JL) departure from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) to Tampa International Airport ( TPA). The flight used the call sign "Critter" as a nod to ValuJet. This route and flight number was Valujet's first flight. Read More: Top 10 Airports In The USA: Navigating Excellence In Air Travel Reviews From AirTran Flyers Image Source AirTran has had quite a journey in all these years, and so did its passengers. Here are some of the reviews from people after their flight with AirTrans. 1st Review "I was given business class, which I was quite thrilled about. The seats are much bigger in this area and I felt comfortable the entire time. The arm rests were actually big enough for me to use as well. I was given a drink and a snack as soon as I boarded the plane - I did not have to wait like the people in coach. I was also offered more drinks and snacks throughout the flight. It is a small perk, but it is nice. It was also nice to be the first off the plane. I did not have to wait for everyone to debark first." - SharonSaver 2nd Review "I loved it! The employees were great and they even offered several snacks while in the air. It was my very first time riding on a plane, so I was kind of nervous. The Flight Attendant made me feel so relaxed and offered to sit with me if I needed it, then. Although I declined the offer, it was nice to know that an airline would go the extra mile for their customers. Every time I travel, I go with AirTran because they know how to treat you." - mrsyoung1983 3rd Review "I fly to Orlando and LAX several times a year and the only company I'll fly with is Airtrain! They are one of the few airlines that offer convenient non-stop flights from my local airport. And their flights are always more than $100 cheaper than the other airlines. Their flights are ALWAYS on time. Knock on wood here, but I've never had a delayed Airtran flight. In fact, most of my flights arrive at their destinations a few minutes early. The staff is outstanding!" - jenniandtonyx1 Wrapping Up AirTran Airways was a beloved low-cost airline that operated for 21 years. It offered affordable flights across the US Midwest as well as the East Coast. The airline's history overlaps with that of several other airlines, including Conquest Airlines, ValuJet Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. They ultimately acquired AirTran Airways and its parent company, AirTran Holdings. AirTran Airways is no longer in operation. But its legacy lives on in the hearts of many who fondly remember their journeys on this iconic airline. If you have thoughts to share or questions to ask, then please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you! Read Also: This Is My Experience With Eva Air! This Is What I Felt About Aruba Airlines! Flair Airlines Review: This Is How I Feel About Flair Airlines! Fly In Style: Your Ultimate Guide To Lot Polish Airlines Adventures!