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Sat, Feb 26, 2011

FAA Accepts Transition Plan For Southwest Acquisition Of AirTran

Plan Outlines How the Two Operations Will Combine, Following Financial Close

The FAA has informed Southwest Airlines that it has accepted the carrier's transition plan to combine the operations of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and Orlando-based AirTran Airways, following the financial close of its transaction to acquire AirTran.

On Sept. 27, 2010, Southwest announced an agreement to acquire all outstanding shares of common stock of AirTran Holdings, Inc., the parent company of AirTran Airways (AirTran), for a combination of cash and Southwest Airlines' common stock. Closing is subject to the approval of AirTran shareholders, receipt of certain regulatory clearances, and fulfillment of customary closing conditions.

"It's been a great team effort by a lot of people to reach this initial milestone, but we still have a lot of work to do to ultimately bring our two carriers together. We appreciate the collaborative approach of all parties, including the FAA Joint Transition Team (JTT)," said Brian Hirshman, Southwest's Vice President Maintenance and Engineering, and Executive Sponsor of the carrier's Single Operating Certificate (SOC) team. "We consider this acceptance by the FAA as the first major milestone on the journey towards SOC. There are too many people to recognize individually, but we are hopeful the team's hard work will allow us to achieve our SOC goal in the first quarter 2012."

Southwest and AirTran currently have separate operating certificates. The transition plan accepted by the FAA outlines the methodology, processes, tools, and timing to be employed to maintain the safety of their day-to-day operations during the transition period and to ultimately achieve a Single Operating Certificate. The SOC is issued by the FAA once all of the steps outlined in the transition plan have been completed. The carriers' processes, and procedures may not be fully integrated when the SOC is issued, however; they will operate under a single FAA certificate at that time. 

Relevant to its submitted plan, Southwest clarified that after the transaction close, which is currently anticipated to occur during the second quarter of 2011, all certificated and flight-related AirTran Employees (Pilots, Dispatchers, Flight Attendants, Mechanics, Schedulers, etc.) will maintain their AirTran employment status at least until the SOC is issued by the FAA for the combined carriers. The logistics of how and when this group of certificated employees will then be transitioned to Southwest employment status has yet to be determined.

FMI: www.soutwest.com, www.faa.gov

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