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Is AirTran’s Atlanta Promotion a Farewell Bonus?

AirTran may be just months away from being absorbed into Southwest. But as this new promotion shows, the Atlanta-based discount carrier isn’t spending its final days as an independent company flying on auto-pilot.

Offer Details

AirTran A-Plus Rewards members will earn one bonus credit for every round-trip flight from Atlanta booked between November 18 and January 31 and completed from November 29 through January 31.

Bonus credits count toward elite status, and will be awarded to all passengers traveling on the same reservation.

Travel must originate and terminate in Atlanta.

Registration is required.

Deal or No Deal

At some point in the future—assuming Southwest’s acquisition of AirTran receives the required regulatory approvals, as expected—AirTran’s program will be folded into Southwest’s Rapid Rewards and AirTran credits will become Southwest credits.

So while you’re technically earning bonus credits in AirTran’s program, those credits will ultimately morph into credits in Southwest’s program.

That’s either a positive or a negative, depending on your view of the relative strengths and weaknesses of Southwest versus AirTran. (Business travelers, who value AirTran’s business-class seats and frequent flyer upgrades, are understandably leery of the prospect of Southwest’s no-frills product.)

There’s also a looming question regarding the future form of Rapid Rewards. Southwest has acknowledged that the program is being completely redesigned and will be relaunched some time during 2011. Until the details of the new program are revealed, the future value of Rapid Rewards credits will remain unknown.

There’s always an element of uncertainty surrounding the future value of frequent flyer miles. After all, the airlines reserve for themselves the right to change the rules of the programs, including award prices, at any time. But there’s more than the usual amount of uncertainty in the case of AirTran credits, given the unsettled prospects for Rapid Rewards.

Caveat, therefore, emptor.

Reader Reality Check

How do you think AirTran credits will fare when the AirTran-Southwest consolidation is completed?

This offer is clearly meant to give Atlanta-based travelers an extra reason to remain loyal to AirTran (now) and Southwest (later). Is it incentive enough to do so?

This article originally appeared on

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