Philadelphia International Airport Getting More AirTran Flights

AirTran Airways expects to almost double the number of flights it operates from Philadelphia International Airport in the next 12 months, the discount airline's president said yesterday.

AirTran plans to start service in June between Philadelphia and Richmond, Va., and is considering flights between Philadelphia and US Airways' hub in Charlotte, N.C., president Robert Fornaro said.

AirTran, which now has 18 flights a day from Philadelphia to Atlanta, Boston and Florida, won't say when it may enter the Philadelphia-to-Charlotte route. It is more likely to add flights from here to the Midwest, to its hub in Atlanta, and to the cities in Florida it already serves, Fornaro said.

The Richmond and Charlotte routes now are served nonstop only by US Airways. AirTran, one of the few carriers to make money last year, plans to start service next Wednesday from Charlotte to Baltimore and to its hub in Atlanta.

The Philadelphia-to-Richmond air-travel "market is fairly large, and historically it's had some of the highest prices in the country," Fornaro said. "We think it's a market that will just explode."

Formally known as AirTran Holdings Inc., the airline recently began leasing a fourth gate at Philadelphia airport, and "that gives us the opportunity to grow to about 35 flights," Fornaro said.

AirTran, blaming high fuel prices, reported a first-quarter loss of $8 million, or 9 cents a share, compared with a profit of $4.1 million, or 5 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue in the quarter increased from $233.5 million to $289.1 million.