Southwest Completes $1 Billion AirTran Deal

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The little airline that could has finally done it: Southwest Airlines has completed its purchase of AirTran.

Talks began in 2010 for Southwest to purchase Atlanta-based AirTran.

As a result, Southwest's passenger traffic will increase by 25%, the Associated Press reports. The newly-minted airline will gain AirTran's hub in Atlanta, the world's busiest airport, as well as Washington's Reagan and New York's LaGuardia.

Aviation firm OAG tells the Associated Press that Southwest/AirTran will rival the world's biggest airline, United/Continental, in passenger-carrying capacity. Southwest already carries some 100 million domestic passengers a year.

Ray Niedl, an analyst with Maxim Group, tells the Associated Press that the low-cost nature of Southwest is no more. Southwest, he said, "has grown up. They are becoming more of your classic airline, though they don't want to admit it."

To many, the beauty of Southwest is the relaxed nature of the airline. The airline doesn't charge for the first two checked bags, or for changing a reservation, and they famously have ticket zones for passengers to board in order. (They also have some really fun flight attendants.)

Southwest will end flights at the Dallas/Forth airport, the only destination that will be dropped as a result of the merger, USA Today reports. Southwest already flies to Dallas Love Field; a 1979 agreement prohibits a carrier to serve both Love Field and the Dallas/Forth Worth airport.

Bob Jordan, a Southwest executive charged with running AirTran, believes Atlanta will become the airline's biggest hub in the next few years, surpassing Las Vegas and Chicago.

AirTran could continue to run as a separate airline into 2013.

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