Southwest owns Air Tran – when will travelers see changes?

Continental and United Airlines just completed their merger, and customers are still feeling the effects. I spent more than an hour on hold the other night waiting for someone help me merge my frequent flier accounts. Slight variations in the two accounts previously made me unable to do it myself. Now, get prepared for round two. Southwest and Air Tran are finalizing their merger plans and consumers will start seeing changes soon.

Right now, Air Tran is a subsidiary of Southwest airlines. However, it takes time to fully transition with two companies this size. On March 1st, the two airlines received a single operating certificate from the FAA making the merger one step closer.  However, the two airlines will continue to operate independently for ticketing and frequent flier issues until all systems are integrated. It could take another year or so, but you will see changes this year.

The website promoting the merged airlines, “Spreading Low Fares Farther” recently changed. Now, there’s very little information this site. If you have questions or need more information, the links send you to Southwest’s site as Southwest bought Air Tran.

In the first half of this year, Southwest will also rebrand Air Tran planes by painting the Southwest color scheme and adopting the single class seating configuration on Air Tran flights.

Eventually the reservation, ticketing, web system, and frequent flier programs will merge.

The next issue – will Southwest and Air Tran both stay in the Cleveland / Akron market. Right now, the companies say they are dedicated to the communities they serve. However, reports from some cities say there have been service losses do to the merger. USA Today says 15 cities learned they’re losing Air Tran service and not picking up Southwest flights.

So far Cleveland and Akron have both survived. Time will tell if the fully merged airline keeps flights in two nearby airports. Let’s hope they both remain as already there is not much competition to drive prices lower in the Cleveland market.

While little is changing for the customer at this point, you can take some action. Check your frequent flier accounts with both airlines and make sure they are exactly the same. Make sure your full name is used on both, an no nicknames. Also, check the address. If street is spelled out on one mailing list, make sure it’s spelled out on the other one. I’ve had a lot of problems linking my United and Continental account because of differences in my name. I’ve spent hours on the phone and needed to send in paperwork to prove the changes. So, act now. It will save you time later.

Related links you may like:
Southwest and Air Tran merging – what this means for travelers 
Merging airlines cause customer confusion
Tips to save money on your next airfare
Southwest changes Rapid Rewards program
Don’t fall for Southwest offer on Facebook