Southwest’s first five years in Atlanta: fewer flights, more local fliers

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Ramp agent Larry Martin loads bags on a Southwest Airlines flight to Columbus, Ohio, at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. In the five years since Southwest bought AirTran and started Atlanta service, its market share has shrunk to under 10 percent. But Southwest says it still carries more local passengers than AirTran did. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Southwest Airlines’ move to buy out AirTran Airways and enter the Atlanta market sparked hopes among some that the Dallas-based discounter would give hometown giant Delta Air Lines a bigger run for its money.

The reality is that, five years after launching flights, Southwest has significantly fewer flights from Atlanta than AirTran did — 124 daily departures compared with 220 before the Southwest takeover. Its presence keeps some competitive pressure on Delta, but it has not sparked a major dogfight.

“Overall, I don’t think [Southwest] has had as big an impact as everyone expected. It just seems to have been watered down a little bit,” said Chris McGinnis, editor of the blog. “The people who were drawn to the low fares — they don’t really see that much difference between Southwest and Delta or any of the majors.”

Read the full story on for more about what people think of Southwest’s lack of assigned seats, how much of the Atlanta market Delta controls with Southwest is in the No. 2 spot, and why Southwest carries more Atlantans than AirTran did.

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