AirTran Airways

Atlanta, Milwaukee

AirTran Airways Inc. is an American low-cost airline based in Atlanta. It was formed after the acquisition of the "old " AirTran Airways by ValuJet Airlines, Inc. and is since autumn 2010 a subsidiary of the former competitor Southwest Airlines.

  • 2.1 The Current Fleet
  • 2.2 Historic Fleet


When ValuJet it was an American low-cost airline. The colors of the airline were light blue, white and yellow. The ValuJet part of the AirTran - history is marked both by major successes as well as by a miserable maintenance. Infamous, the company was in an accident in 1996 in which all people were on board lost their lives.

Founding of ValuJet

In 1993, ValuJet Airlines Inc. was founded with headquarters in Atlanta, GA. At this time, although the western United States was developed by low-cost pioneer Southwest Airlines, however, the south-east was from the large, conventional airlines American Airlines ( Miami) and Delta Air Lines (Atlanta ) dominates. The irony of aviation history would have it well that ValuJets first aircraft from competitors and future arch-rival Delta came and started from Atlanta, where Delta had established, for the first flights to Florida. On 26 October 1993, the service between Atlanta and Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville was taken. All flights took place exclusively with this a Douglas DC-9 -32. The founder of the airline, Robert Priddy, Maury Gallagher, Tim Flynn and Jordan Lewis had collected all the experience in the industry. For the airline logo was a grinning aircraft, which was nicknamed " Critter " because of its appearance. So it happened that the callsign of the ICAO ( ICAO call sign ) of ValuJet " Critter " was.

Rapid expansion

The Douglas DC-9 was chosen by the airline for many reasons. On the one hand allowed this type of aircraft short bottom times and was in the service as easier to handle than the comparable Boeing 737-200, on the other hand stared at exactly this time many airlines their DC -9 fleet, so that many of these aircraft were available on the used aircraft market. The first DC -9 was quickly supplemented by other machines of the same type of Delta Air Lines. For the first time ValuJet attracted attention in June 1994 when the company already started its 15 DC -9 in the fleet. The fiscal year 1994 the Company entered into with a profit of 21 million U.S. dollars. Thus ValuJet was the U.S. airline that flew the fastest of the founding of profitability. More DC-9 was followed over time, including Turkish Airlines. By May 1996, the fleet grew to 48 DC -9 and four machine MD- 80th In October 1995, ValuJet again shocked the scientific community when the company launch customer for the MD -95 was a new type of aircraft from McDonnell Douglas. There were 50 aircraft on firm order and taken options on a further 50 machines.

ValuJet in the twilight

The rapid expansion policy had its price. Maintenance operations of ValuJet were characterized in that little damage was always repaired temporarily in order to continue to operate the machines. Maintenance were often delayed and the rate of unusual incidents was 10 times higher than the U.S. average. So had 1994 15, 1995 57 and 1996 alone emergency landing another 57 aircraft of the ValuJet Airlines January to May. In February 1996, ValuJet was encouraged to seek permission from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration prior to the commissioning of additional aircraft and the inclusion of additional routes. Such interference with the aircraft traffic there was not since deregulation in 1979. ValuJet competed in 1995 and a contract by the U.S. Defense Department, which did not go to ValuJet due to lack of security. On 11 May 1996 ValuJet Flight 592 crashed after takeoff from Miami to the Everglades. The reason was not this time, the lack of maintenance of ValuJet, but an error in the shipment of oxygen generators for MD -80, which was carried out by the company SabreTech. Nevertheless, the accident led to the FAA on June 17, the ValuJet flight withdrew the license. ValuJet was accused of not monitor the safety standards of SabreTech enough. Ultimately, this accident led to changes in the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations, the rules and regulations for the handling of dangerous goods.

Phoenix from the ashes

On 30 September 1996 after ValuJet met all requirements of the FAA and the Department of Transportation DOT, flight operations began with 15 DC-9 on a greatly reduced route network again. Although each month, the route network and fleet grew again, ValuJet was still suffering from its negative image. This brought the idea to a spectacular coup: ValuJet acquired Airways Corp., parent of the airline AirTran Airways, and assumed the identity of AirTran.. The acquisition was announced on 11 July 1997 and the integration was completed on 17 November 1997.

The new AirTran

The acquisition of AirTran and the resulting name change marked a turning point. Already in the year of the merger AirTran offered the possibility of seat assignment, which stood out from the free-seating concept of the other low cost airlines. Other elements of the classic airlines, such as the introduction of a Business or a frequent flyer program should follow, nevertheless remained AirTran and large, the concept of a low cost airline faithful. Unprofitable routes from the former AirTran - network were eliminated and also the first Boeing 737-200, which met after the acquisition to the fleet were retired.


In July 1998, AirTran unveiled after the accident a positive quarterly result. Shortly before the airline was awarded the title " Best national low cost airline " the magazine " Entrepreneur Magazine ". The title was won in 2001, 2002 and 2004 to the airline. After a long time about the future of the Boeing 717 - program (formerly MD -95) was trembled, AirTran took over on 24 September 1999 its first new machine from the ValuJet order. Short time later, on October 12, began with the first commercial 717 flights. With the delivery of additional Boeing 717, the last Boeing 737-200 were scrapped.


On 12 December 2000, the company took with flights from Atlanta to Grand Bahama Iceland its first international flights. The attacks of 11 September 2001 met Air Tran just like the rest of the industry, so the company had to reduce its network by 20%. But on October 7, the AirTran route network reached again the old size. AirTran also became the first U.S. carrier that met all safety requirements issued after September 11 (eg reinforcement of cockpit doors). Even otherwise AirTran proved, in contrast to its predecessor, ValuJet, as exemplary in terms of safety. Nevertheless, an aggressive policy of expansion like in the old times ValuJet was monitored from now on again. So AirTran took over between 2001 and 2003, in addition to their own machines ordered, almost 22 new Boeing 717 of former TWA holdings.


On August 15, 2002 AirTran went public. The expansion policy continued to be pursued. For this, an agreement was signed with the regional airline Air Wisconsin and made ​​some short trips to the airline in November 2002. The contract expired in mid-2004, AirTran enabled at the time but some 717 and DC-9 release for new medium-haul routes. 2003 was a further cooperation agreement has been concluded, this time with the charter company Ryan International ( not to be confused with the Irish budget airline Ryanair ). Since the range of 717 was not enough for flights to the West Coast, Ryan International operating some Airbus A320 in AirTran colors on flights from Atlanta to Las Vegas, Denver and Los Angeles. However, for long-term solution to the problems AirTran appointed on 1 July 2003 100 Boeing 737-700.


On January 5, 2004, a great chapter came to an end: The last Douglas DC-9 was retired, and thus the last memory of ValuJet times. One of the first former ValuJet DC-9 went to the Virginia Air and Space Museum in Norfolk, Virginia and is on exhibit in AirTran colors. In June, the launch of the first Boeing 737-700 was followed.

The future of AirTran

Since the election of Joseph Leonard as chairman in January 1999, the Company flew in every quarter, a positive result. An exception was alone in the fourth quarter of 2001 (after the attacks of 11 September 2001). The end of the successful series, despite the emergence of strong competitors JetBlue in the northeast, not in sight. After Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways AirTran is the third largest low cost airline in the U.S. and the fifth largest in the world. Although the end of 2004 failed talks to acquire 15 Boeing 737-800 of American Trans Air and some gates in Chicago / Midway. The company, however, plans to grow organically in Chicago.

In September 2010 it was announced that AirTran will be taken over by the competitor Southwest Airlines for the price of 1.4 billion U.S. dollars.


Current fleet

As of October 2013, the fleet of 122 aircraft from AirTran is with a mean age of 10.1 years:

Many machines of AirTran are equipped with a system for wireless Internet use on board of the provider Gogo Inflight Internet, which is also possible during the flight, but currently only within the U.S., an Internet access for a fee.

Naval History

The following aircraft were operated (old and new) of ValuJet and AirTran, but are now retired:

  • 02 Airbus A320 -200, operated by Ryan International for AirTran ( new)
  • 06 Boeing 737-200, operated by AirTran (old and new)
  • 04 Douglas DC-9 -20, operated by ValuJet
  • 44 Douglas DC-9 -30, operated by ValuJet and AirTran ( new)
  • 04 McDonnell Douglas MD -80, operated by ValuJet