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As Southwest Airlines continues to wind down AirTran operations at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, less competition is leading to a reduction of routes and higher fares for flyers in an out of the world’s busiest airport.
AirTran operated a connecting hub at Hartsfield-Jackson with more than 200 daily departures before the merger. But Southwest has “de-hubbed” that operation, focusing less drawing passengers to connecting flights and more toward travelers starting or ending their trips in Atlanta. The last AirTran flight out of Atlanta is flight number 1 on December 28, 2014 from ATL to TPA.
From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
Southwest-AirTran’s market share at Hartsfield-Jackson has shrunk from 16 percent to 11 percent, while Delta’s has increased from nearly 78 percent to nearly 83 percent over the last four years. Total passenger counts were down 1.1 percent in 2013, and are up 0.75 percent for the first half of this year.
While Southwest has added several routes from Atlanta and operates larger planes than some of AirTran’s aircraft, it has cut more. Before the merger AirTran operated about 220 daily flights from Atlanta, while Southwest now operates about 142. That will drop to about 125 in January, a slower time of year, after all AirTran flights have disappeared. Total reduction: more than 35 percent.
And while AirTran operated flights from Hartsfield-Jackson to six Caribbean destinations, Southwest as of January 2015 will operate only two: Cancun and Punta Cana.
As a result of the consolidation in ATL, the average domestic airfare has risen from $384 in the 1st quarter of 2013 to $405 in the 1st quarter of 2014 – an increase of 5.2 percent – the 4th largest increase among the nation’s top 100 airports, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
In the wake of all the pricing and service turbulence in ATL two other low(er) cost carriers have announced an increase in service out of ATL this fall:
- Spirit Airlines will start daily service from ATL to Chicago O’Hare and Detroit on October 24, 2014
- Frontier Airlines will start service 4 times a week from ATL to Chicago O’Hare on October 2, 2014
The “Southwest effect” was supposed to bring increased competition to the ATL market, however, it looks like the consolidation has more of a negative impact on Southwest as Airtran ceases to exist. Delta seems like the winner for now, increasing market share and as prices continue to increase.