The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

AirTran expands Midwest fights

  • AirTran Airways adding new nonstop destinations to Minneapolis, Denver, St. Louis and Branson, MO.
  • $118 roundtrip to Minneapolis over $200 less than flights on Midwest, Northwest.
  • More expensive than MegaBus, less expensive than Amtrak.

AirTran Airways failed in its attempts to buy out Milwaukee's hometown airline, Midwest Airlines, two years ago. Now, AirTran is revamping its business approach in Milwaukee with expanded destinations, lower fares, and a specifically designed program for college students.

In May, AirTran plans to add Minneapolis, Denver, St. Louis and Branson, Mo. as nonstop destinations from Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport.

AirTran will expand its service out of Milwaukee by 43 percent from May 2008, moving to 30 daily departures from 21. According to a press release, AirTran believes Milwaukee is a major developing market for travelers, and aims to give local residents more options at lower fares.

"We see enormous potential in Milwaukee, and this increase in service underscores our commitment to growth in the market," said Tad Hutcheson, AirTran's vice president of marketing and sales, in the release.

"Milwaukeeans can expect to see fares drop as much as 60 percent on these routes, and we are confident that residents will continue responding to our lower fares to more destinations," Hutcheson added.

Of the four new destinations, Minneapolis is most prominent to Milwaukee residents. Previously, only Midwest and Northwest Airlines provided nonstop service to Minneapolis/St. Paul, each charging over $350 for roundtrip tickets.

AirTran plans to start out with a $118 roundtrip fare to the Twin Cities. For comparison's sake, the airfare costs less than train travel, but more than bus travel.

Amtrak charges $89 each way from Milwaukee while MegaBus, a discount bus service in the Midwest, charges only $25 each way.

William J. Hunter, associate professor of finance in the College of Business Administration, considered the ramifications of a low-cost airfare option as opposed to a government-subsidized mode of transportation such as Amtrak.

"A low-cost airline like AirTran, Northwest or Delta generally has lower labor costs," Hunter said. "When AirTran can charge a lower price, this makes the markets more competitive. The other two are monopolies. It's very difficult to figure out their cost structures."

AirTran is also reaching out to college students with its new AirTran U standby program. For college students ages 18 to 22, passengers can fly standby for $69 for short segments or $99 for long ones. However, seats are not confirmed and there may be additional charges per segment.

"AirTran Airways offers reduced rate, stand-by travel to young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 through our AirTran U program," said LeAnne Fawcett, a representative from AirTran's customer relations department.

Sean Landgraf, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences, appreciates another low-cost option for traveling back to St. Louis from Milwaukee, but carefully observed the AirTran U program's fine print.

"If you have a connecting flight, it's another $70 each way," Landgraf said. "The absolute worst possible thing that could happen is if you make the first and miss the second. You've already invested some money into it, plus you can't check bags."

Nick Schaffran, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, usually travels by train or bus back to Minneapolis. Now, he may reconsider what he uses to get back to Wisconsin's next door neighbor.

"I only flew back this weekend for the first time," Schaffran said. "I try to take the train when I can. The train is most comfortable and the bus is good and cheap. But that's actually really cool, because (the airfare) will be pretty cheap."

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