AirTran Airways to depart from Tallahassee

This year the day after Labor Day marks not only the end of summer, but also the end of AirTran Airways’ service in Tallahassee.

AirTran notified officials at the Tallahassee Regional Airport that the air carrier would no longer have Tallahassee as one of its Florida locations in July.

Serving the Big Bend area since November of 2001, AirTran has offered non-stop flights to Atlanta-AirTran’s main hub-and Tampa. While flights from Tallahassee to Tampa were discontinued on July 23, flights to Atlanta have been offered until Sept. 7.

AirTran’s departure from Tallahassee has a big impact on college students and government – two major demographics in the Big Bend area.

“(AirTran) seems like its targeted to college students,” said Brandon Ellis, 19, a third year business administration student from Washington, D.C

Although he said he saved nearly $100 flying AirTran over other airlines, Ellis said he wasn’t pleased with the airline’s service. “I only fly AirTran when I’m strapped for money.”

Via a connection flight to Atlanta, travelers could reach 48 destinations across the country including Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, New York City and all three airports in the Washington D.C. area. Out of state destinations, along with AirTran’s trademark low fares, have made the airline attractive to students.

The local government helped to support AirTran. While mayor of Tallahassee, Scott Maddox required all city employees to fly AirTran when on business trips.

“The former mayor felt Tallahassee needed a low cost airline to keep the [air] fares down,” said Melanie Kopp, an aide to current Tallahassee mayor John Marks.

Being the only official carrier of the City of Tallahassee, as well as a low-cost alternative to rival Delta Air Lines, AirTran was responsible for 15 percent of the traffic at the Tallahassee Regional Airport. Although such a percentage was not substantial enough to keep AirTran out of the red, it was good enough for second in passenger traffic, which is 57 percentage points behind Delta.

According to a City of Tallahassee press release dated July 20, in its three years serving the Big Bend area, AirTran has saved customers over $75 million compared to higher-priced Delta and other major air carriers.

Even with a $3.6 million subsidy and customers saving large amounts of money flying the airline, AirTran did not make enough money make a profit in the Tallahassee area, the press release said.

Peggy Estes, senior manager of media relations for Delta, would not answer questions regarding an increase in ticket prices to Atlanta and Tampa. She also did not answer why the airline increased flights to those locations in June. She did, however, correspond with The Famuan via e-mail.

“Delta feels that our customers have spoken, and they prefer Delta Air Lines in Tallahassee,” Estes said. “Tallahassee has always been an important part of Delta’s network, especially for intra-Florida travel.

Delta’s flights are performing well there, and we look forward to serving customers in Tallahassee for many years to come.”

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