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JetBlue Airplane in Sunset (Photo: JetBlue Airlines)

Ever since the bombshell announcement Monday that Southwest will acquire AirTran, people have been wondering what this means for JetBlue. Now, the Associated Press has obtained a memo revealing what JetBlue thinks about the whole affair, or at least what JetBlue wants people to think it thinks. And that can be summed up as follows: "Everybody chill out, we got this."

"Our plan has proven to be the right path forward," Barger wrote. "We could easily double our size overnight but at what cost to our balance sheet, our culture and brand? We've worked too hard for those assets."

Barger acknowledged that his airline will inevitably face greater competition in several markets, notably Boston and New York, but added, "[Carriers] that grow through merger may be bigger, but they're also distracted by their own integration issues, and they usually take their eye off the customer. This gives us another opportunity to win by playing our game even better."...read more»

Airline fees chart (Photo: SmarterTravel.com)

Fees go up from time to time, $5 here, $10 there. In isolation, none of these hikes make a huge difference—they're more like little pinpricks than big slashes. But those small, incremental increases add up. USA Today reports that many fees are up as much as 50 percent since last summer.

Reading that, I thought to myself: Sounds about right. So I dug up a version of our fees chart from last July (the 24th, to be exact) to see some of those discrepancies for myself....read more»

AirTran aircraft tail close up (Photo: AirTran)

Just days after revealing it will be acquired by Southwest, AirTran announced a new route and increased service to a number of cities. Strange? A little, but more on that in a second. First, let's look at what's new.

  • New daily service from Tampa to Key West
  • Three additional daily nonstops between Phoenix and Milwaukee
  • Two additional daily nonstops between Akron, Ohio, and Orlando
  • Two additional daily nonstops between Milwaukee and Tampa
  • Two additional daily nonstops between Baltimore and San Juan, Puerto Rico

So why is AirTran doing this, knowing, as we now all do, that it will likely disappear in the next 12 to 18 months? There are a few possible explanations....read more»

United New Plane (Photo: United Airlines)

A San Francisco judge rejected a lawsuit that would have halted the merger between United and Continental, clearing the path for the deal to close on schedule this Friday.

The lawsuit was brought by 49 passengers who claimed the merger would lead to higher fares. But according to the Associated Press, the judge found insufficient evidence that the merger would harm these 49 travelers directly, and noted many of the plaintiffs had testified that they did not even fly United very often. Apparently only one of the plaintiffs said she would fly the airline once the merger was complete....read more»

AirTran Airways' Boeing 737-700 (Photo courtesy of AirTran)

Much of the fuss following Southwest's acquisition has focused, understandably, on the buyer. After all, the deal is a big one for Southwest, which will expand considerably both in size and reach. But lost in all the predictions about routes and fares and Southwest's impending head-to-head battle with Delta in Atlanta is the fact that AirTran, which will be absorbed into the Southwest brand, is no slouch, either.

You may recall that AirTran took home the title of Best Value Airline this year in our annual Editors' Choice Awards. Here's what we had to say:

AirTran has delivered a steady stream of value-oriented promotions in 2010, quietly becoming a pace-setter whose prices force other air providers to match or risk being passed over by budget-conscious consumers. Also worth noting is the travel window—or period of time during which a traveler can fly on a given airline's lowest prices—that AirTran makes available in its frequent sales. The window is consistently longer with AirTran than with virtually all of its competitors. In early spring this year, AirTran was already discounting flights into November.

To get a sense of what AirTran's disappearance could mean for consumers, I talked to our own airfare editor, Patricia Magana....read more»

Continental plane flying over mountains (Photo: Continental)

When Continental announced in March that it decided to scrap free onboard meals, it signaled the end of an era. Which is not to say that the loss of airline meals themselves—often flavorless and rubbery—are worth lamenting. But Continental was the last major domestic carrier to serve meals, and ending the program severed that final tie to a bygone era.

OK, enough waxing sentimental. The airline is out with its new for-purchase menu, which will go into effect October 12. It's pretty standard stuff: A trio of small sandwiches (one of which seems comprised mostly of cheese) sold as "sliders"; an Angus beef hamburger; an Asian noodle salad that actually sounds tasty and, at only $4.50, might be the best value; a sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich; and a selection of snack boxes with nuts and cheese and whatnot. The growing trend of using brand names is also evident: Jimmy Dean sausage, Hormel cold cuts, Yoplait yogurt....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

Tucked in the Department of Transportation's (DOT) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on consumer protections rules was a vague suggestion that airlines refund bag fees when checked baggage arrives late. Here's how the DOT phrased the idea:

Delivering baggage on time—The airline must make “every reasonable effort” to deliver mishandled bags within 24 hours; it must compensate passengers for reasonable expenses caused by the delay.

Pretty reasonable, right? After all, you pay a fee to transport your bag, so if the airline fails to hold up its end of the bargain and delivers the bag late, or loses it, you should be reimbursed. That's how it works with airfares—if your flight is delayed or canceled, passengers are typically compensated in some manner.

Reasonable to some, but not, apparently, to the Air Transport Association (ATA), which represents most of the country's largest airlines. In fact, the ATA thinks the concept of bag fee refunds is flat-out absurd....read more»

(Photo: Southwest)

The surprise merger between Southwest and AirTran has potential to fundamentally reshape the budget travel landscape. But big changes—especially airline mergers—aren't always a good thing for consumers. Let's take a look at some of the basic factors in play with the Southwest/AirTran deal, and examine how customers may be affected.

Routes: For Southwest, the biggest prize in the deal is likely AirTran's thriving hub in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Southwest doesn't currently fly to ATL, but the airport would become Southwest's third-biggest destination once the deal closes (assuming it retains most of AirTran's service there). For Southwest, it's an extremely valuable business travel market, as it would pit the airline head-to-head with Delta, which also has its hub in Atlanta. Such a large-scale entry by Southwest into the airport could also bring down fares....read more»

Photo: Southwest Airlines

In the first merger of major low-cost carriers, Southwest has agreed to buy AirTran for $1.4 billion.

The deal will expand Southwest's service from many major cities currently served by AirTran, and open the door to Southwest's first international service, as AirTran currently flies to destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico....read more»

Couple Figuring Out the Tip (Photo: iStockphoto/asiseeit)

Tipping is a controversial custom: Just take a look at the comments on Ed Perkins' "What's the Appropriate Tip?" and the SmarterTravel Ultimate Guide to Tipping, and you'll see heated debates taking place in the comments. Even a recent article about scoring upgrades, which included a hint about tipping the front desk staff for a better room, roused the ire of at least one reader who compared the action with a bribe. ...read more»

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