Tag Archives: AirTran Airways

Random Aviation Photo

29 Mar

Back in May 2009, AirTran Airways made a big announcement — it had installed Gogo inflight Wi-Fi on its entire fleet.  As part of the announcemen, a group of us reporter types were invited on a flight to nowhere to give it a whirl. One of those reporters was NBC’s Tom Costello, who did a live broadcast on the flight for the “Today” show.  Below is my picture of him doing his report. Enjoy!

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

23 Jan

It was quite a week in aviation, with topics including cracks in the Airbus A380′s wings, a snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest that shut down airports, American Airlines continues moving ahead in Chapter 11 and Memphis-based regional Pinnacle Airlines facing the same.  So I had to fight to decide what made the top 10 this week.

  1. I’ve been steeped in the business aviation side of the business since late 2008.  After Boeing announced it was shutting down its plant in Wichita, the self-proclaimed Air Capital of the World, the New York Times came out with this profile of the city and its history with the Chicago-based company.
  2. At the beginning of my journalism career, I covered topics including education, economic development and employment and training.  So it was with great interest I read a blog post in Aviation Week’s Things With Wings blog: The Art of Attracting Top A&D Jobs.  The post not only discusses what happened with Boeing in Wichita, but covers how other companies are making the balance between capacity and work.
  3. I flew down to Austin on Southwest Airlines last week, and noticed that the carrier has begun its integration with AirTran Airways.  So I read two stories last week with interest.  One, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, discusses how the Dallas-based carrier will dismantle Atlanta as a hub.  The second story, in the Washington Post, covers how the carrier will keep 22 AirTran cities, but drop another 15.
  4. Even before American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, rumors were rampant that the carrier was a merger target for US Airways.  Bloomberg BusinessWeek has a story about how US Airways is working on a plan that would “fix a weak domestic route system at American Airlines and boost revenue.”
  5. Back in 1996, on my first day of work at the Regional Airline Association, I got to sit in on a call where a major airline executive had words with my new boss over a decision not to take sides in the fight over user fees to fund the Federal Aviation Administration.  And now, 16 years later, the fight continues.  The latest shot was fired when the White House responded to a petition asking that a proposed $100 per flight user fee be scrapped, according to a story in AOPA Online (my current employer).

Episode 181 of the Airplane Geeks podcast features my boss Craig Fuller, who discusses user fees, NextGen and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, Calif.  Finally, below is a video of Southwest Airlines installing its new EVOLVE interior in a Boeing 737. Enjoy!

Best Of: Top 10 Favorite Airline Commercials

28 Dec

Editor’s note: kids, Aunt Benet is taking the week off to enjoy the holidays with the family. So please enjoy these best ofs this week.  Happy Holidays!!

I know I usually do top aviation stories of the week, but I’m on travel, so I’m switching it up a bit.  The announcement that Frontier Airlines is rolling out a new advertising campaign — complete with television commercials — made me remember how much I love a good carrier campaign.

I’ve always been a fan of good airline commercials.  I like ones that make me laugh, that give me a sense of place and that show the wonderment of air travel.  Below are links to 10 of my favorites, in no particular order.  Which ones do you like? What did I miss?

Click HERE to see the commercials!

Top 10 Favorite Airline Commercials

23 Sep

I know I usually do top aviation stories of the week, but I’m on travel, so I’m switching it up a bit.  The announcement that Frontier Airlines is rolling out a new advertising campaign — complete with television commercials — made me remember how much I love a good carrier campaign.

I’ve always been a fan of good airline commercials.  I like ones that make me laugh, that give me a sense of place and that show the wonderment of air travel.  Below are links to 10 of my favorites, in no particular order.  Which ones do you like? What did I miss?

1.  Frontier Airlines “Still the One”: a classic, with the carrier’s  animal tails singing the lyrics to “You’re Still The One.”

2.  AirTran – Babysitters: grandparents get their own surprise when they make a visit to see their twin baby grandchildren.

3.  United Airlines – “The Dragon”: I know this one got a lot of flack when it was unveiled, but I was mesmerized by the juxtaposition of the man, the dragons and his son (yes, I did a semester of film school ;) )

4. Eastern Airlines – Disney:  This is a charmer from back in the day when Eastern was the official airline of Walt Disney World.  The quality is a bit fuzzy, but it’s still a great commercial!

4. Southwest Airlines – Bags Fly Free On Stomachs: this commercial was funny then, but funnier now that Southwest has bought AirTran.

5.  Delta Air Lines – Keep Climbing: Lift: again, this was another one that got a bad rap, but I loved it for several reasons.  One, I love how it looked in black and white. Two, I loved that they used actual employees. And three, it showcased by beloved Boeing 747.

6.  Western Airlines – The only way to fly: this 10-second gem features the iconic airline bird.

7. PSA – Our Smiles Aren’t Just Painted On: I’m from California, and I was a great fan of this originally intra-state carrier. They were known for having smiles painted on the front of the plane. If you’re lucky, you may see the PSA heritage plane in the US Airways fleet.

8.  Piedmont Airlines – McLean Stevenson, Fishing Hole: the former M*A*S*H star was tapped in the 1980s to do commercials for the carrier.

9. British Airways – The Good Life: as much grief as the airline got over the opening of Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport, this commercial of the terminal as an aquarium won rave reviews.

10.  Pan Am – Introduction to Jet Service: as an homage to the launch of the television show “Pan Am” on ABC this Sunday, I thought I’d include this classic 3:55-minute commercial.

GUEST POST: Cranky Flier Mulls Service Prospects for BWI Airport

11 Jul

Editor’s note: I’m on vacation this week, so I have some of my aviation/airline/travel geek friends doing guest posts here this week.  First up is my good friend Brett Snyder, aka the Cranky Flier.  Brett and I became friends back in June 2001, when I moved to Phoenix to work for Mesa Air Group and he was working at what was then America West Airlines.  His blog is a must-read.  Today, he posts about air service prospects for my hometown airport (which I’m sure he did to annoy me). Enjoy!

With the Queen on vacation and today being her birthday (long live the Queen!), I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at her hometown airport.  I believe BWI may officially have the longest airport name on Earth.  At last check, it was Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, though they may have thrown Cal Ripken in there at some point.  In reality, they should just name the place Southwest Airlines Airport.

Southwest Airlines' Shamu Boeing 737 All BWI photos by Benet J. Wilson

BWI started as a beach-head for Southwest on the east coast back in 1993.  As a student at George Washington in D.C., I used to take Southwest back to Phoenix to visit my family during breaks.  At that time, it usually required taking two stops through one of the few gateways served from the airport.  Since that time, BWI has become Southwest’s primary east coast destination.  In fact, as of the end March, BWI was Southwest’s fourth busiest airport with 187 flights a day to 45 different cities.

This has been good for BWI, which traded a dying US Airways hub operation for what is now a strong Southwest presence that serves Baltimore and the DC area well.  There appeared to be a threat to BWI’s status in the Southwest network when the airline decided to start flying to Washington/Dulles a few years ago, but that effort has really fizzled.  Today, Southwest serves only two cities with 8 flights a day from Dulles; hardly a threat.
With Southwest’s acquisition of AirTran, BWI will approach fortress hub status for Southwest.  For the year ending March 2011, Southwest carried 55.76 percent of passengers at the airport while AirTran carried 15.31 percent</a>.  That’s right.  The combined airlines will now have more than 70 percent of BWI passengers.  As we’ve seen at other airports with similar standing in the Southwest system (Houston/Hobby and Chicago/Midway, for example) this is a double-edged sword.
It’s great for an airport to have a strong presence from a “low fare” airline even if the fares aren’t as low as they used to be.  But people love Southwest, and that’s been excellent for BWI over the last twenty years.

The Southwest Airlines Concourse at BWI Airport

It does, however, effectively kill the chance of any other airline increasing service at the airport in any significant way.  All other airline service at the airport goes to hubs (except for a couple of 9-seaters on essential air service routes), and the airlines have been using smaller and smaller airplanes on those routes.

In the last 10 years, Continental used to fly jets as large as a 757 from Cleveland to BWI.  Now there are four 70-seat turboprops a day.  United used to fly widebodies to O’Hare.  Now it’s a mix of regional jets and narrowbody mainline aircraft.  The numbers show the same thing.
Back in 2002, airlines other than Southwest and AirTran carried 47.5 percent of traffic at the airport compared to the less than 30 percent today.  That loss of share hasn’t been solely due to growth by Southwest.  Those same airlines carried a quarter fewer passengers this past year than they did in 2002.
As we’ve seen elsewhere, as Southwest gets stronger, others shy away and that means that the future of BWI is largely rooted in what Southwest does.

A stained-glass window at BWI Airport

There was some excitement recently when CEO Gary Kelly suggested that BWI would be the natural jumping off point for long haul low-cost service sometime in the future, but that’s far from a done deal.  If Southwest tries something like that, then BWI is the right place to try it, but it’s far from clear that a service like that can make money.  And nobody else is coming in anytime soon.

Outside of AirTran’s Caribbean service, BWI has had a very difficult time attracting and retaining international flights.  Sure, there’s Air Canada to Toronto, but come on.  Canada doesn’t count.  That leaves the daily British Airways flight to London, but that doesn’t come cheap.  In fact, BWI has had to pay up to keep that service flying.
So BWI is an airport with a mixed future.  As Southwest’s largest east coast gateway, it’s in a very good position to succeed in the future with growth to new cities.  That growth however, will undoubtedly come at the expense of other airline service, which has already shrunk significantly over the years.

Random Aviation Photo

27 Jun

Back in August 2007, I took  trip out to Las Vegas to do a series of articles about McCarran International Airport.  Weirdly enough, I have a deathly fear of heights, but I have never let it get in the way of seeing something cool.

The something cool on this day was a trip to the top of an operations tower at the airport.  I managed to get this shot of some AirTran and Alaska Airlines aircraft parked at the gate.  Enjoy!

My Top 5 Interesting Aviation Stories Of The Week

6 May

I have a love/hate relationship with weeks like this past week.  I love it that there was so much going on in the news, but I hate it because there’s no way to get to it all.  So below are my top five for the week.

  1. One question I get regularly is why the United States can’t do airport security the way Israel does.  My Aviation Week colleague Jim Ott gives you the short answer — so I don’t have to!
  2. Washington Post editors seem to think that Southwest Airlines’ acquisition of AirTran Airways will mean lower fares — eventually.  But one has to wonder.  But in an interview with NPR about a year ago, Aaron Gellman, a transportation and management professor at Northwestern University, said “consolidation inevitably raises prices,” speaking about the United-Continental merger.
  3. I have a tie for number three — the Project: Wander blog on “60 Minutes” Commenter Andy Rooney’s confusion over the airlines now versus then, and Donald Trump in TheStreet.com on his year and a half as an airline executive (I included this in this week’s Strange But True Aviation News).
  4. American Airlines finds itself in a bit of hot water over a contest, The Face of Your Base, a competition to find the best-looking female and male flight attendants at each crew base, reports MSNNz Travel. The winners would model the airline’s newest uniforms in company marketing materials. But the airline’s union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, feels the contest “undermines the flight attendants’ primary duty: in-flight safety,” says President Laura Gladling.
  5. Speaking of flight attendants, the Up Up and a Gay blog asks a good question: What’s the Most Annoying Airline Fee? Mine is baggage fees.  I know airlines need to make money. And I know they keep trying to raise fares, and we keep refusing to pay them. So they get us with the fees.  No matter where you go, there you are!

This week’s “Strange But True Aviation News” is full of “what were they thinking” moments, including: more folks trying to take guns/ammo past airport security; threatening a fellow airline employee on YouTube; and an interesting press release from Cathay Pacific. Enjoy!

Top Posts For AviationQueen.com In April

2 May

The growth for AviationQueen.com continued in April, with 6.154 views for the month.  My top story — with 315 views — was “My Top 5 iPhone Travel Apps,” published April 21.  Rounding out the top four are:

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for continuing to read my blog.  I also really appreciate the comments; keep them coming, and I promise to always answer!

Random Aviation Photos – The AirTran Edition

2 May

Today is the day that the Southwest Airlines-AirTran Airways merger officially goes through.  So below are five of my favorite AirTran photos from my Flickr account.  Enjoy!

An AirTran Boeing 717 at BWI Airport (all photos by Benet J. Wilson)

An AirTran Boeing 717 at Orlando International Airport

Part of the AirTran fleet at Boston-Logan International Airport

An AirTran Boeing 737 on the tarmac at Boston-Logan International Airport

NBC News' Tom Costello prepares for a live shot on the Today Show during AirTran's first wifi flight

BONUS shot! Me with AirTran CEO Robert Fornaro on the wifi flight

My Top 5 Favorite AirTran Airways TV Commercials

7 Apr

AirTran fleet at Boston Logan International Airport Photo by Benet J. Wilson

I am a big fan of funny and/or clever commercials.  And living in the Baltimore area, I get to see AirTran Airways’ commercials on a regular basis.  They always make me laugh, and have made me more inclined to fly them.

Southwest Airlines has some funny commercials too, but I wonder if they will have the same flavor as the AirTran commercials I’ve grown to know and love.  Below are my top five favorite AirTran commercials of all time.  Enjoy!

1.  The Babysitters

2.  Room Service

3.  Shipping

4.  Client Dinner

5.  Skip the Stampede (which was never actually shown on TV)


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