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Southwest and its pilots have agreed to a transition plan for incorporating AirTran pilots into the fold. In a statement, Southwest said, "With this initial transition agreement, Southwest and the Southwest Pilots Association (SWAPA) establish a framework to begin an orderly transition from operating Southwest and AirTran as separate carriers, to a single carrier under one Single Operating Certificate."
The agreement would take effect after the merger is closed, which Southwest says should happen in the second quarter of 2011.
"This transition agreement, which was unanimously agreed to by our SWAPA Board of Directors, is an important step in the AirTran acquisition and integration process," Chuck Magill, Southwest Airlines' Vice President of Flight Operations, said in the statement. "Our hard-working Pilots are now poised to begin the important and challenging work of integrating their AirTran colleagues into Southwest Airlines."
Having this framework in place will smooth out the post-merger integration process, and help Southwest avoid some of the labor-tension pitfalls that have befallen other carriers.
<em>**Update**</em> Southwest has also received FAA approval for its plan to combine operations once the merger is cleared. Here are the relevant excerpts from the airline's statement:
Southwest and AirTran currently have separate operating certificates. The transition plan accepted by the FAA outlines the methodology, processes, tools, and timing to be employed to maintain the safety of their day-to-day operations during the transition period and to ultimately achieve a Single Operating Certificate. The SOC is issued by the FAA once all of the steps outlined in the transition plan have been completed. The carriers' processes, and procedures may not be fully integrated when the SOC is issued, however; they will operate under a single FAA certificate at that time.
Relevant to its submitted plan, Southwest clarified that after the transaction close, which is currently anticipated to occur during the second quarter of 2011, all certificated and flight-related AirTran Employees (Pilots, Dispatchers, Flight Attendants, Mechanics, Schedulers, etc.) will maintain their AirTran employment status at least until the SOC is issued by the FAA for the combined carriers. The logistics of how and when this group of certificated employees will then be transitioned to Southwest employment status has yet to be determined.
Shorter version: Chill out, we got this.
Readers, are you excited for the merger to close, or worried that it will diminish Southwest's value?