AirTran Adding Flights to Chicago

Discount carrier AirTran Airways is adding its first new flights at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport in nearly 18 months, with nonstop service to Chicago Midway Airport, company executives said Wednesday.

The Orlando, Fla.-based airline, which operates the largest low-fare network at D/FW, hasn't added new service here since July 2004, when it began flights to Los Angeles. AirTran canceled that route this year amid heavy competition with American Airlines.

AirTran also failed to begin planned service to Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Fla., citing high fuel prices and heavy competition.

So the Chicago route, which will begin March 8 with three daily flights, has D/FW officials smiling.

"This new service will continue the low-fare expansion at D/FW and will help us to keep growing D/FW instead of shrinking it," said Joe Lopano, the airport's executive vice president of airline and terminal management, in a prepared statement.

Chicago, he said, is the airport's second most popular destination, with 3,000 passengers daily.

In addition to Chicago, AirTran has nonstop flights to Atlanta, Orlando, Las Vegas and Baltimore/Washington.

The airline, which is expanding at Midway, also announced new service from that airport to Newark, N.J., on Wednesday.

"It's always been our plan to build this route," said Kevin Healy, AirTran's vice president of planning. "These are two very big cities, two very important markets, so it made sense to connect them."

The announcement came less than a week after Dallas-based Southwest Airlines said it would add D/FW to its schedule-sharing partnership with ATA Airlines. That decision is likely to spur more traffic from D/FW to Midway, which ATA serves, because passengers can connect to Southwest flights upon arrival at that airport.

Southwest is in the midst of its own expansion at Midway.

The new AirTran flights also come after American Airlines canceled 31 daily flights at D/FW to 13 cities, including service to Long Beach, Calif., and Lima, Peru.

American officials cited poor performance on those routes, as well as the impact of shifting some service to nearby Dallas Love Field.

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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