Business
2:45 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Southwest to Replace AirTran in Four More Cities

Southwest Airlines said Thursday it’s pulling the AirTran brand out of four more markets.

Charlotte, NC, Flint, MI, Rochester, NY and Portland, ME will each see Southwest planes replace AirTran service starting in April.   

Eventually, the AirTran brand -- and its Atlanta hub -- will go away. 

Speaking to investors about Q3 results, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said Southwest and AirTran will connect their networks early next year. 

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports high fuel prices will force Southwest to shrink its workforce by 1,400 workers.  Southwest, which has never laid-off an employee, will likely achieve the reduction through early buy-outs.

Southwest Thursday reported a third-quarter profit of $97-million, down from $115-million in Q3 last year.  The airline blames high fuel prices coupled with mediocre bookings in September for most of the decline.  

Despite an increase in future bookings, Kelly warns Southwest will have to work hard to offset even steeper fuel costs next year.  He predicts the airline will pay $3.45 a gallon, up from an average of $3.10.  

Ft. Worth-based AMR, parent company of American Airlines, reported Thursday it lost $238-million in Q3.  Excluding one-time items, AMR beat analyst expectations by five cents, earning 33-cents a share.  Still in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, American continues merger talks with US Airways.  CEO Daniel Garton says look for American to sell or spin-off its regional subsidiary, American Eagle, post-bankruptcy. 

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines releases its third-quarter earnings on Wednesday.