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Southwest Airlines acquires AirTran Holdings

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Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) closed May 4 on the acquisition of AirTran Holdings Inc. (NYSE: AAI), parent company of AirTran Airways, which runs flights out of Branson Airport.

With the deal, Southwest purchased all of the outstanding common stock of AirTran Holdings at approximately $7.57 per share, bringing the acquisition price to approximately $1 billion, according to a news release.

"The successful closing of this transaction is a significant accomplishment and marks a great day in the history of Southwest Airlines," Southwest Airlines Chairman, President and CEO Gary Kelly said in the release. "Our first order of business is to welcome our new friends from AirTran to the family in a truly Southwest Airlines way."

In the short term, the airlines will operate separately, with AirTran aircraft to be converted to the Southwest brand starting in 2012.

It isn't yet clear how the acquisition will affect Branson Airport, where AirTran Airways offers flights connecting Branson to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, in Glen Burnie, Md.; Chicago Midway Airport; the William P. Hobby Airport, in Houston, Texas; Atlanta; and Orlando.

“We are now being served by a much larger airline with the combination of Southwest and AirTran, and that’s only a good thing for us,” Branson Airport CEO Stephen Peet said in an interview with Springfield Business Journal reporter Brian Brown.

Laurel Moffat, a spokewoman for Southwest Airlines, said that the company has put together an integration team following the $1 billion buyout to decide how it will serve AirTran’s markets. She said it was too soon to say how the Branson Airport would be affected, but that load factors and demand would be considered during the evaluation period, which could take up to two years.  

“It’s our intention to serve most, if not all, of AirTran’s markets,” Moffat said. “At this point, we haven’t made any firm decisions yet.”

For more on Branson Airport, look to the May 9 Springfield Business Journal print edition.[[In-content Ad]]

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