Airline Says Decision To Drop 'Underperforming Markets' Not
Made In Haste
While Congress leaves the FAA financially crippled arguing over
the issue of whether to subsidize empty seats on turboprops flying
to small towns, it looks like four more cities might become
candidates for the so-called Essential Air Services program.
AirTran Airways, which is preparing for a merger with Southwest,
has issued a news release which says it will drop service to
Asheville, NC; Atlantic City, NJ; Moline/Quad Cities, IL; and
Newport News, VA.
In the case of Asheville, which had service to Orlando, the move
eliminates duplication. Southwest began service in March at the
Greenville-Spartanburg Airport in South Carolina, (GSP) which is
only 55 miles from Asheville.
USA Today reports overlapping service is also a factor for
Newport News-Williamsburg International, with Southwest already
serving Norfolk, only 30 miles away, and AirTran already serving
AirTran has served the Quad City International Airport for 15
years, but is currently down to just one daily non-stop flight
connecting with Orlando.
The cut in service to Atlantic City was simply a matter of an
underperforming market, according to AirTran.
When pressed by USA Today on the matter of Southwest CEO Gary
Kelly's promise that the combined airline would "make every effort"
to retain service to small cities, AirTran spokesman Chris White
replied, "All decisions of this magnitude are evaluated with our
long-term goals in mind. While the primary reasons for this
decision are the current economic reality and high fuel prices, we
must also take into account the long-term effect of these types of
decisions on the newly combined company.
"It is important to reiterate that this decision, while
difficult, has been under consideration for many months and even
before our two airlines came together."
The cuts are effective January 6, 2012 for at Asheville,
Atlantic City, and Quad Cities, and March 9, 2012 at Newport News.
AirTran says the small number of customers who've already booked
travel from affected cities after those dates will be contacted
directly and "reaccommodated," and that employees affected will be
offered work elsewhere within the company.