Friday, May 23, 2014

AirTran to end nonstop flights to Atlanta from Norfolk


Southwest Airlines plans to end its direct flights to Atlanta from Norfolk International Airport in about two weeks.

AirTran, now owned by Southwest, has operated nonstop flights to Atlanta three times daily since August 2012. As of June 8, the carrier will begin making one stop between Norfolk and Atlanta, connecting either in Chicago, Baltimore or Orlando, wrote Brad Hawkins, a Southwest spokesman, in an email.

“In the current cost environment, we’re more judicious than ever to schedule smartly our most valuable assets – our people and our planes – on the routes that make the most sense to address our customers’ demand,” he wrote.

Atlanta is the Norfolk airport’s biggest market, said Charles Braden, the airport’s director of market development. Delta Air Lines operates eight nonstop flights daily from Norfolk to Atlanta, totaling more than 1,200 seats a day.

“It’s a popular city and also very well served,” he said.

That competition likely made it harder for Southwest to make enough money on those flights, Braden said. And the reduction in competition after the change in the Air Tran flights – leaving Delta as the sole nonstop provider – could mean prices will go up for Atlanta trips.

“In terms of access, we’re not really going to be hurt,” Braden said. “There may be some repercussions on the fare side of it.”

The AirTran change fits with a larger airline industry trend of carriers working harder to match supply with demand, Braden said. “They are less tolerant of underperforming routes.”

Southwest recently cut other nonstop service from Norfolk. As of March, it planned to stop making direct flights to Jacksonville, Fla.,and Nashville, Tenn.


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