AirTran Frequent Flyers Start “Save Our Seats” Campaign Against Southwest

Nov 3, 2010

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Frequent flyers can be very passionate people. For some reason, people get very attached to their airline of choice and whenever that comfort level is threatened, all hell can break loose. This is happening now with the impending takeover of AirTran by Southwest, which I wrote about in September.

AirTran elites are mad that many of their beloved perks will go away once Southwest and its grimy “simple business model, one-class cabin” hands get a hold of their program. Specifically, AirTran elites stand to lose:
1) Business class cabin (and AirTran makes it very easy to upgrade)
2) Assigned seats
3) XM Radio and WiFi
4) Dream Seat awards, in which AirTran credits can be used on any flight, regardless of alliance (though with restrictions as I wrote about in my program scorecard)

While I understand their concerns, what AirTran flyers will gain with the merger is:
1) FREE companion pass when you accrue 100 credits in a year. Currently you have to SPEND 100 credits to get a companion pass
2) More redemption opportunities
3) More points-earning partners (AirTran currently has no hotel partners, for example)
4) A better points expiration policy. AirTran credits expire after a year- Southwest, 2 years

Overall, each of their frequent flyer programs is pretty unique, compared to the legacy carriers. (For analysis, see my Program Score Cards for each: AirTran, Southwest).

I can see AirTran frequent flyer’s point of view, but I don’t see them gaining much traction. The whole point of a merger is to gain synergies and I doubt Southwest will be able to do that by keeping policies and products that go against their core (profitable) business model.

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