AirTran Would Seek Divested Assets From Merger

February 15, 2008

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AirTran Holdings, parent of low-cost carrier AirTran Airways, would seek any gates, slots or facilities that Delta Air Lines or other carriers could be forced to give up in any large-scale merger, AirTran's chief executive said on Thursday.

"We fully expect, just as the government has done in the past, that (Justice Department antitrust officials) will require a transfer of gates and facilities and slots away from any large newly combined airline," AirTran chief executive Bob Fornaro said.

"In order to develop the airline and carry business customers, you have to go to the places they want to go," Fornaro said. "The key thing is facilities in congested airports."

AirTran would be interested in any divested assets at Atlanta, Chicago O'Hare, New York's LaGuardia and Washington's Reagan National airports.

Delta and Northwest Airlines are considering a merger and could propose a deal in the coming weeks to create the biggest single carrier, aviation and other sources have said.

The two have few overlapping routes and do not share major facilities, so there is uncertainty among antitrust experts as to what type of divestments the government would require to ensure competition.

AirTran is Delta's chief competitor in Atlanta but Fornaro said there is no room there for AirTran to grow.

AirTran unsuccessfully tried to purchase Midwest Airlines last year and said "we're not having any conversations with anybody" now.

Midwest has since been purchased by a private equity group, with Northwest taking a passive stake.