Southwest Airlines to Operate in Atlanta Starting February 12, 2012

Southwest Airlines announced last month that it will begin service at the airport in Atlanta effective February 12, 2012 as a result of its acquisition with AirTran Airways, whose largest hub airport is Atlanta. However, what does this announcement really mean?
Delta Air Lines is by far the carrier with the most flights to and from Atlanta, as that is the home of its world headquarters. Official statements from Delta Air Lines claim that they are not concerned, stating that customers choose Delta Air Lines because of its industry-leading global network with nonstop service all over the world. In fact, one source at Delta Air Lines quipped, “Bring it on!”
Is the stance apparently being taken by Delta Air Lines one of confidence, one of arrogance, or simply a disguise for concern?
Southwest Airlines, which in February will launch 15 non-stop flights from Atlanta to Houston-Hobby, Austin, Baltimore-Washington, Denver and Chicago, is known for its policies which are perceived to be customer-friendly, including no baggage fees. However, some FlyerTalk members point out that the perception that the airfares charged by Southwest Airlines are not the bargains for which Southwest Airlines was once known. Add to the mix the absence of a reasonably-priced premium class cabin currently available on AirTran Airways, no international flights and a boarding process with no assigned seats, and the Southwest Airlines factor may not seem quite so attractive to the business traveler, which Southwest Airlines hopes to capture in Atlanta.
On the other hand, Southwest Airlines will compete with Delta Air Lines head-on in Atlanta, possibly forcing Delta Air Lines to lower airfares on routes which it competes with Southwest Airlines — something Delta Air Lines already does on a regular basis with AirTran Airways.
It is yet to be seen as to how the battle will shape up for the Atlanta market. The impending competition should hopefully benefit both the business and leisure travelers.

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