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Airline Merger’s Impact On Hopkins, Akron-Canton Is Unclear

Monday, September 27, 2010 at 4:18 PM

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Two of the country's largest low-fare carriers Monday announced the next potential airline merger, following closerly on the heels of the Continental United Airlines agreement. Ideastream®'s Rick Jackson says the new deal will also have an impact in Northeast Ohio.

Southwest Airlines is the second largest passenger carrier at Cleveland Hopkins Airport - while takeover candidate Air Tran Airways makes up about 45 percent of daily traffic at neighboring Akron Canton airport.

The proposed one-point-four billion dollar merger could mean considerable changes for both airports.

Kristie Van Auken is an airport V-P at Akron-Canton, and today was scrambling to learn more. She says she see’s little reason for Southwest, once it acquires Air Tran, to close its operations there.

VAN AUKEN:
“We’ve established ourselves as the low fare airport in this region and we’re going to continue to do that. It’s been with AirTran up until this point - we’re excited to start this new chapter with Southwest Airlines, and frankly, the franchise is strong, its growing, its’ profitable, I don’t see why they would abandon it.”

The companies do fly to different destinations from the Northeast Ohio airports. But changes are inevitable, and already Southwest has said it will not keep AirTran’s business class.

The airports admit that the announcement caught them off guard. In a statement, Hopkins’ Airport Director Ricky Smith said leadership is hopeful the acquisition will result in an expansion of their relationship with Southwest. Van Auken stressed that for the moment - nothing changes at Akron-Canton.

Whether the deal could mean higher fares will be examined, especially in cities where low cost airlines dominate airports. The chair of the Senate Antitrust, Competition and Consumer Rights subcommittee, said Monday the deal will be closely looked at.

The airlines hope to complete the merger late next year or in early 2012.

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