What the Southwest-AirTran Merger Means to You CheapOair Staff May 3, 2011 general Southwest acquires AirTran. So what's next? On Monday, Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran Airways in the latest airline merger. Southwest will now start the integration of AirTran into the Southwest Airlines brand. But what does this merger mean to you as a customer of these two airlines? Southwest answered a few of the most asked questions on their company site and here below are just a few of the highlights: Why the acquisition of AirTran?: AirTran fits into Southwest's vision for the next decade and beyond: to win more Customers, particularly business Customers; improve the Customer Experience; and add destinations to its route map. Both companies have passionate and resilient People who care about their co-workers and who care about serving Customers. Once integration is complete, what can I expect to see?: In the first quarter 2012, Southwest and AirTran are expected to operate under a Single Operating Certificate. The entire AirTran fleet will gradually be transitioned into the Southwest paint scheme and single class configuration. Ultimately, all Frontline Employees will wear Southwest uniforms. Reservation and ticketing systems, web sites, and each carrier's frequent flyer programs also will be combined beginning next year. What changes can I expect now that the transaction has closed?: For Customers, it's business as usual at the close of the transaction. For now, Southwest and AirTran will continue to operate as two separate carriers as they begin their work toward integrating the two operations. In the first half of 2012, Southwest expects to begin rebranding the AirTran fleet to the Southwest paint scheme and single class seating configuration. The airlines will eventually combine the reservation and ticketing systems, web sites, and frequent flyer programs. What changes can I expect to see immediately? Are there any new Customer benefits?: For now, there are no changes to the Customer Experience on either Southwest or AirTran. We will continue to operate as two separate airlines and sell our own products just like today, while working to integrate the carriers and eventually provide a Southwest Customer Experience. When will the integration process be fully completed?: We expect that the integration process will take several years to complete. What about my existing booking, is it in jeopardy?: No, your travel arrangements are protected. It's business as usual for both airlines. Will all of Southwest and AirTran's markets continue to be served?: There will be no changes to the Customer Experience right away. Southwest and AirTran will serve more than 100 destinations combined. Updates will be provided throughout the integration process as decisions are made regarding the combined list of destinations. What happens with Bags Fly Free?: There will be no changes to the Customer Experience right away. As you know, Southwest does not charge a bag fee for the first or second checked bag. AirTran charges $20 for the first checked bag, $25 for the second, and $50 for additional bags. Upon full integration, it is our intent to have a consistent product offering without bag fees. For now, the two airlines will continue to operate under their current guidelines and policies-independent from each other. Will Southwest adopt assigned seats and different classes of service?: There will be no changes to the Customer Experience right away. Southwest does not assign seats. AirTran offers assigned seats. Southwest has one class of service and AirTran offers two classes of seating. Upon full integration, it is our intent to have a consistent product offering with open seating and a single class of service. What changes with my Rapid Rewards & A Rewards membership now that Southwest and AirTran are affiliated companies?: Nothing. You will continue to earn and redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards & AirTran A Rewards credits just as you do today.