Airtran fails to fly

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September 9, 2011

2:30 AM

Coming back to school from breaks can be emotionally difficult for some students, but it may soon become physically harder to do as well.

AirTran Airways announced in August that it would cease operations in four airports across the country, including Williamsburg’s very own Patrick Henry Field. The company, which recently became a subsidiary of Southwest Airlines, cited the troubled economy and high fuel prices as reasons for the service cuts.

“I really do regret that AirTran is pulling out of the nearest commercial airport to the College of William and Mary,” College President Taylor Reveley said. “This is not good for us, whether students, faculty or staff. This is almost bound to mean fewer flights to [New York City], in particular, and higher fares for the flights that are left.”

Services to Williamsburg will continue through March 9, 2012. The airline will directly contact any ticketholders who have made travel plans beyond the cutoff date.

“I’ve used AirTran since freshman year,” New York native Stephanie Monohan ’12 said. “It’s definitely inconvenient because it’s a 20 minute drive to [Newport News/Williamsburg International] and a 50 minute flight to New York.”

Monohan was surprised by the news of the cancellation.

“I think they got a lot of business from students, so I’m kind of surprised they would cancel service,” she said. “It’s kind of unfortunate — I used the airline enough that I thought they would have sent me an email or something.”

With AirTran gone from the Williamsburg airport, students will have few other inexpensive options for flying north. Delta and U.S. Airways will remain.

“Competition is vital to holding fares down. And, of course, the more flights to places that lots of us need to go, the more convenient,” Reveley said. “Unfortunately, the Richmond airport, also reasonably close to the College, has also lost airlines, resulting in fewer flights and higher prices.”

Allegiant Airlines, a subsidiary of Allegiant Travel Company, is new to Patrick Henry Field and hopes to fill the gap left by AirTran but will offer fewer destinations than the bargain flight giant.

“Our business model is different from most airlines,” Allegiant media representative Kristine Shattuck-Cooper said. “We do fly from small communities to what we consider world-class leisure destinations. We’re not totally replacing AirTran; we’re just filling a different market.”

The Las Vegas-based company, which specializes in vacation packages, currently only offers flights to Sanford International Airport in Orlando, Fla.

Shattuck-Cooper said that Allegiant considers the local market when deciding on possible destinations.
“I will tell you that we look at population — we do interact with customers in the area to get a feel of travel habits,” she said.

In addition to the cancellation in Williamsburg, AirTran is terminating services for Asheville Regional in North Carolina, Atlantic City International, and Quad City International in Moline, Ill.

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