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AirTran traffic not quite stellar in Jul-2009

Air Tran CEO, Bob Fornaro
Air Tran CEO, Bob Fornaro
  • Jul-2009 traffic figures slightly disappointing;
  • Wi-Fi roll-out complete, giving a useful marketing edge;
  • Milwaukee set to become an aviation battleground;
  • Another online method to lower distribution costs.

The month of Jul-2009 seems to reflect a little weakness for Orlando-based LCC, AirTran, which has failed to continue the good run established in the first half of the year.

The decline in Jul-2009 RPMs exceeded the drop in ASMs, resulting in a lower passenger load factor. Figures for the first seven months of 2009 provide a brighter picture, but as competition increases in various important markets, it will be interesting to track AirTran’s progress over the full course of the year.

Passenger statistics – July-2009




% change

Traffic pax (mill)




Traffic RPMs (bill)




Capacity ASMs (bill)




Load factor (%)




Passenger statistics – Seven months to July-2009


Year to date-09

Year to date-08

% change

Traffic pax (mill)




Traffic RPMs (bill)




Capacity ASMs (bill)




Load factor (%)




First with Wi-Fi – and useful as an added marketing tool

AirTran has completed installation of Gogo Inflight Internet on all 136 of its aircraft, making the LCC the first major airline to equip its entire fleet with Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi enables travellers to connect to the Internet and corporate e-mail and network systems and offers unlimited entertainment options, including surfing the net, instant messaging, and updating Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

"Promise made, promise delivered," said AirTran CEO, Bob Fornaro.

And in response to Southwest Airlines’ decision to begin service between Boston and Washington in mid-August, AirTran is offering free WiFi from 01-Aug-09 to 01-Sep-09 on aboard its own flights between theses cities, to help differentiate its product.

An AirTran spokesman, Christopher White, said that the carrier’s “freebie” was intended to both celebrate the fact that AirTran had completed outfitting its entire fleet for WiFi, and also as a competitive move designed to catch the eye of business travelers flying the Boston-Baltimore route, which has become “among the most competitive in the country.’’

AirTran will regularly charge its passengers USD5.95 on short-haul flights and USD12.95 on longer services for the use of Wi-Fi. The service is increasingly viewed as a fundamental hook to compete for business travellers, and an important supplementary source of ancillary income, which LCCs currently derive from charges for checked bags, reserved seats, meals and drinks and other amenities to bolster revenue streams.

Milwaukee battles seemingly don’t worry AirTran

AirTran lost out in a bid to buy Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines in 2007, and has used the time since to build its own presence in Milwaukee - which has not helped Midwest to prosper.

However, Republic Airways Holdings has announced plans to both buy Frontier Airlines out of bankruptcy and also acquire the Midwest Air Group from private equity firm, TPG Capital.

The Republic deal is aimed to provide a boost to Midwest by providing it with fresh capital and the use of lower-cost Republic small jets to replace its larger aircraft.

AirTran CEO, Robert Fornaro, remains singularly unimpressed, saying, "this is basically a patchwork of regional aircraft masquerading as a once proud brand. Midwest was well liked, but there is really nothing left of the old Midwest."

Fornaro’s confidence is probably well placed, as AirTran's growth and claimed profitability in Milwaukee are concrete evidence that the company proposes to persevere in this market. The carrier has continued to increase its Milwaukee presence, even as it has reduced its overall capacity offerings in the past year.

However, in another interesting development, the largest of all the LCCs, Southwest Airlines, will soon have a Milwaukee presence, setting the scene for yet another fare war that will do nothing to help the weaker operators in the market.

In Oct-2009, AirTran will offer 36 flights to 19 cities per day from Milwaukee.

The drive to reduce distribution costs, while improving on-line customer security, continues

AirTran Airways has meanwhile partnered with Acculynk to provide passengers with a more secure online payment option using debit cards, while at the same time reducing transaction fees for the Orlando-based LCC.

The service, called PaySecure, will allow AirTran Airways customers to use debit cards with software based PIN technology to pay for online purchases with no enrollment or username/password requirements.

Tad Hutcheson, AirTran’s VP Marketing & Sales said, "PaySecure gives our customers an easy to use, secure payment option which will not only lower our distribution costs but will also reduce fraud and charge-backs, while providing security conscious customers with a more secure way to pay."

Acculynk secures online transactions with a suite of software-only services, backed by a powerful encryption and authentication framework.

Background Information:

  • Commenced services in 1995;
  • Major hub at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, with secondary hubs at Orlando, Baltimore and Milwaukee;
  • Transports approximately 20 million passengers p/a;
  • Operates more than 750 services per day, including 270 services at Atlanta;
  • Operates a fleet of 50 B737-700s (out of an order for 115) and 87 B717-200s; plans to operate a total fleet of 200 aircraft by 2012;
  • Operates to 63 US destinations,

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