One of AirTran Airways' star cities has landed the company's annual meeting this spring.
Local shareholders who want to attend can simply go to the Crowne Plaza Quaker Square in downtown Akron.
For the first time in its history, the Orlando-based airline will hold its annual meeting outside Orlando or Atlanta, its hub.
Board members made the decision Wednesday, to reflect how important Akron is to the airline, which has flown out of Akron-Canton Airport for 10 years.
The meeting will be held May 24. A quarterly board of directors meeting will also take place.
The airline made the decision because it wanted to expose its board and shareholders to more of its markets, said Tad Hutcheson, AirTran vice president of marketing.
``Akron is one of our favorite cities, and it does very, very well for us,'' Hutcheson said. ``If every city in the (AirTran) system operated like Akron, we would be thrilled.''
Airport director Fred Krum said he was excited when he got a rare phone call from AirTran Chief Executive Joe Leonard a few months ago, saying he wanted to bring the meeting to Akron.
``It's really a powerful statement of the relationship between the airline and the airport and how deep it is,'' Krum said. ``We've worked doggedly to make them successful here, and they've worked doggedly and have been so committed to the market. It's paid off for them.''
In just the last five years at Akron-Canton, AirTran has gone from four daily flights to Atlanta up to 13 daily flights to eight nonstop locations -- Atlanta, Boston, New York, Las Vegas and Orlando, Fort Lauderdale (Saturdays only), Tampa and Fort Myers, Fla.
The latest service -- nonstop to Fort Myers -- started this month.
The airline has helped the airport become one of the fastest growing in the nation during the last several years.
Airport officials will try to show off the area while AirTran's executives are in town, said Kristie Van Auken, airport marketing director.
Most of AirTran's leaders will arrive the day before the annual meeting. Bob Fornaro, company president and chief operating officer, will be in town May 22 and will meet with some CEOs of local companies that support AirTran the next day. AirTran Chief Executive Leonard and other board members will be in town in time for a community reception May 23.
Hutcheson said he expects 100 to 150 people at the annual meeting. AirTran employees are shareholders and often at least 100 employees fly in for the meetings, he said.
Dan Colantone, president and chief executive of the Greater Akron Chamber, said AirTran's decision not only is good for the public image of Northeast Ohio nationally, but also is a recognition of the successful relationship between the airline and the community.
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