Monday, September 27, 2010

Southwest buys AirTran! Continental updates its meal policy!

We usually don't see so much activity on a Monday, but there were two big developments today in U.S. domestic travel industry:
  1. Southwest is buying AirTran Airways; and
  2. Continental is really and truly doing away with complimentary meals for domestic Coach passengers.
I was very surprised to hear about the Southwest-AirTran deal.  Mostly, I was surprised by the lack of advance coverage; we'd heard about the United-Continental deal with months before it was announced.  But it also seems like an odd match-up.

Sure, AirTran has gates at some airports where Southwest would like to add service, like (where?).  But Southwest is a one-class carrier.  Absorbing AirTran will mean reconfiguring all of the planes to eliminate the Business Class cabins that are in place now, and that seems like a lot of work.

I'm also sorry to see AirTran go, precisely because of those Business Class cabins.  We have lots of excess capacity and mergers make sense, but AirTran had broken new ground by offering two-class service for affordable prices.  Virgin America has two-class service, but its First Class offering is much pricier than the front cabins on AirTran flights.  I can't help thinking that we've lost something here.

As for Continental, I'd been totally confused by the situation on meals ever since my recent Alaska trip.  I lobbied for an end to free meals months ago and was happy when they first announced they'd be doing away with them, and these for-purchase food items sound really tasty.  I'm all for it.

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