AirTran Airways is discontinuing daily non-stop service between Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and New York's LaGuardia, and plans to add a second daily flight to Chicago Midway.
The low-cost carrier implemented service to New York on Nov. 8. Service will continue through Feb. 15.
AirTran has been competing locally with Delta for the New York passenger market. Delta began offering daily non-stop service to LaGuardia on Jan. 1.
"It comes down to market issues," said Martin Lange, CFO at the airport. "It was a competitive response to AirTran, and then AirTran decided they weren't going to compete with Delta."
Schedule changes are routine in the industry, said Fred Piccolo, president and CEO of the airport.
Changes in AirTran's service at Sarasota-Bradenton are likely the product of a price war under way between JetBlue Airways and Continental, Piccolo said. Both airlines are adding service at Newark to destinations including Tampa. The lower ticket prices make it hard for AirTran to compete in secondary markets like Sarasota-Bradenton.
AirTran's decision to add a second daily non-stop flight to Chicago will likely result in more passengers passing through the airport than if the airline had kept the New York service intact, Piccolo said. Chicago is a well-established marketplace for Sarasota-Bradenton.
AirTran began non-stop service to Boston in December. Originally planned as a daily flight, the schedule was adjusted to a single weekly flight due to weaker-than-expected bookings.
AirTran inaugurated service at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in December 2004, and is credited with playing a large part in the airport's 18.5 percent passenger increase in 2005.
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