In July 1997, ValuJet, Inc., parent of
and AirWays Corporation, parent of AirTran Airways, announced that the
two holding companies planned to merge by the end of November 1997.
new holding company, to be renamed AirTran Holdings, Inc., will operate
two wholly owned subsidiaries, AirTran Airlines and AirTran Airways.
The combined carriers will initially serve 45 cities and operate
a fleet of 42 aircraft, comprising of 31 DC-9 aircraft and 11 737 aircraft
with 227 peak daily departures. The airline expects to increase its fleet
size to more than 50 aircraft in 1998. AirTran would also continue to offer
its FlightLink ground service between Atlanta's Hartsfield International
Airport and Chattanooga, Tenn., as well as Macon and Dalton, Ga.
In 1992, the predecessor airline, ValuJet Airlines, was founded by
airline industry veterans, including an executive group from the former
Southern Airways and pilots, mechanics and flight attendants from the
defunct Eastern Air Lines.
Created to fill the void at Hartsfield-JacksonAtlanta
InternationalAirport after Eastern Air Lines'
demise, ValuJet Airlines started with two former Delta Air Lines' DC-9
aircraft, and the first commercial flight occurred between
on October 26, 1993. The airline was the first to launch ticketless
travel in 1993.
In the spring of 1994, barely eight months after launching service
between Atlanta and three
cities, the airline went public by listing its stock on the NASDAQ and
trading under the ticker symbol VJET.
In late 1995 the airline placed an order with the then McDonnell Douglas
Corporation to be the launch customer for the MD-95 aircraft (now known
as the Boeing 717). Serving as the launch customer meant the airline
would have significant input into the design of the aircraft, and
ValuJet was the youngest airline ever to serve as a launch customer for
an aircraft type.
At the end of 1995, ValuJet was named as the top company in the Georgia 100 as
published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the airline posted
high margins with a $67 million net profit on revenues of $367 million.
The original AirTran Airways, a Boeing 737 operator with service to/from Orlando, was founded by AirTran Corporation, the holding
Company of Mesaba Airlines of Minneapolis, Minnesota, operating as a Northwest Airlink carrier with
hubs in Minneapolis and Detroit. In 1994, AirTran Holdings purchased a
start up 737 operator named Conquest Sun and renamed the airline AirTran
Airways. Conquest Sun, similar to ValuJet, was an airline started by
former Eastern Air Lines employees. The original AirTran Airways moved
its headquarters to Orlando,
Florida, and grew to 11 Boeing 737 aircraft serving 24
cities in the East and Midwest providing low-fare leisure travel to
Orlando. In 1995, AirTran Airways was spun off by
Mesaba and formed its own independent holding company named Airways
On July 10, 1997, ValuJet, Inc., the holding company for ValuJet
Airlines, Inc., announced plans to acquire Airways Corporation, Inc.,
the holding company for AirTran Airways, Inc. of
Florida. The deal was scheduled to
close on November 17, 1997.
On September 24,
1997, ValuJet Airlines changed its name to AirTran Airlines. So, for a
couple of months, the two holding companies, even though they had not
yet merged, operated airlines with similar names – AirTran. ValuJet,
Inc., operated AirTran Airlines with a hub in
Atlanta and Airways, Inc., operated AirTran Airways with a
hub in Orlando. Finally, on November 17, 1997,
ValuJet, Inc., acquired Airways, Inc., and renamed the holding company,
AirTran Holdings, Inc. In the summer of 1998, the two airlines merged
onto the same FAA certificate and the AirTran Airways name survived.
While the hub remained in Atlanta, the headquarters of the new entity was combined in
Orlando, Florida, on January 28, 1998.
In January 1999, a new management team led by Joe Leonard, a veteran of
Eastern Air Lines, and Bob Fornaro, of US Airways, took the reins at the
airline. On August 15, 2001, the company's stock began trading under the
ticker symbol AAI on the New York Stock Exchange. The airline grew to
serve more than 56 cities coast-to-coast with more than 700 flights per
day and over 9,000 Crew Members serving nearly 20 million passengers per
In November 2007, Bob Fornaro took over as CEO, as well as President.
Joe Leonard remained Chairman of the Board of Directors until June,
2008. Upon his retirement, Fornaro then became Chairman, CEO and
On July 1, 2003, AirTran placed an order for 100 Boeing 737 aircraft. In
October 2003, AirTran began services to Washington, D.C.'s ReaganNationalAirport,
and to San Francisco
the following month.
On January 5, 2004 AirTran's last Douglas DC-9 was retired, leaving it
with a fleet of more than 70 Boeing 717s.
The first Boeing 737 entered AirTran's fleet in June 2004, ending the service by Ryan. Later in 2004,
AirTran sought a major expansion at
Chicago-MidwayAirport by buying the
leases to ATA Airlines 14 gates. Southwest Airlines made a higher bid
for the gates, and AirTran lost the deal.
On May 23, 2006, AirTran accepted one of the last two Boeing 717s
delivered in a ceremony with Midwest Airlines, who accepted the other
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