Single FAA operating certificate for Southwest

Southwest and AirTran – Single Operating Certificate

An important milestone was reached today as Southwest Airlines obtained a single operating certificate for Southwest and AirTran Airways.  This is an important step in the merger of the two carriers.

The Southwest Airlines Air Carrier Operating Certificate will be amended to read “Southwest Airlines Co. and/or AirTran Airways Inc.”  This new certificate will allow the two airlines to operate under a single set of FAA Operations Specifications.

As the merger continues, AirTran still remains a wholly owned subsidiary of Southwest Airlines.  For passengers flying on Southwest or AirTran, it’ll continue to be business as usual.

Fully integrating the two airlines will take a few years to complete.  The most recent speed-bump where the mechanics shot down seniority integration between the two unions is just one of many challenges.  Other unionized work groups, besides the mechanics, must still be integrated.  A single workforce just like the single operating certificate is a must.

The two fleets must still be fully integrated; this means re-painting all aircraft, re-configuration of aircraft interiors, and one of the larger hurdles will be making the transition to a single ticketing system.   With the recent Northwest – Delta merger, the Delta ticketing system and delta website is still full of bugs at times when purchasing tickets – or trying to redeem awards online.  Many have chastised United Airlines’ online ticketing systems as of late as well.  So far, it seems Southwest has been doing a good job despite the challenges ahead.

Mike Van de Ven, Chief Operating Officer at Southwest Airlines, said, “While this is an important milestone and one that we are extremely proud to achieve, as a practical matter, most Employees and Customers will see little or no immediate difference in the two airlines’ flight operations, as allowed by having both carriers named on the Single Operating Certificate.” Van de Ven continues, “This will enable us to continue our integration in a coordinated and thoughtful manner while our Customers will continue to receive the highest level of service and Safety they have come to expect from both carriers.”

The Single Operating Certificate is one of the major hurdles since Southwest purchased AirTran on May 2, 2011.  Both carriers have been working at a smooth integration and tickets can be booked from southwest.com or airtran.com as customers have done in the past.  The websites, frequent flyer programs, and employee workforces will slowly be integrated over time.

Van de Ven concluded with, “We cannot overstate the significance of having received our Single Operating Certificate—it is a monumental step in the regulatory process—and achieving it enables us to move forward with the integration of the two airlines into a single carrier. I would like to thank the Employees of Southwest and AirTran, the FAA, and the Department of Transportation for the countless hours of work they have dedicated to achieve the Single Operating Certificate.”

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