Airtran looks to grow; But without financial help, operations center, HQ may move

As the wind from Hurricane Charley shrieked outside, two dozen employees at work in AirTran Airway's national control center in Orlando watched as the ceiling started to heave. Panels lifted 5 inches into the air and slammed back down, sending dust...


AirTran's current headquarters lease, which is set to expire at the end of the year, already contains a substantial break. A clause inserted three years ago allows the airline to keep about $67,000 of the roughly $320,000 in annual rent it is supposed to pay, as long as it does not pull out of the lease.

The airport signaled its willingness to accommodate AirTran further earlier this year by extending a deadline the airline faces for deciding whether to exercise a five-year extension on its lease. Initially set for the end of June, the deadline was put off until the end of this month, and it's likely to be extended again.

Local officials also would not reveal details about their discussions with AirTran. Brooke Bonnett, a top economic-development aide to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, said only that the city "works collaboratively with AirTran to achieve their business plan and fulfill growth opportunities."

Chris Schmidt, a deputy executive director at OIA, added, "We consider it important for the long-term success of the airport to have a strategic partner like AirTran here."

CONTACT: Jason Garcia can be reached at jrgarcia@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5414.

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