(USA TODAY) -- The Justice Department's suit that would block the American-US Airways merger
remains the talk of the airline industry. But in one Florida community,
the focus remains on the fallout of the previous big merger between
Southwest and AirTran that passed without any antitrust objections from
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that it was one year ago this week that Southwest pulled its new subsidiary AirTran out of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (airport code SRQ).
SRQ was far from alone: Southwest dropped a total of 15 AirTran cities
from the carriers' combined route map. But the Sarasota airport was
among the hardest hit. AirTran flew 365,000 passengers a year at the
airport, with the Herald-Tribune saying the pull-out of the low-cost carrier took about $1 million of revenue out of the airport's $21 million annual budget.
airport has helped mitigate the loss of AirTran by landing new service
on JetBlue. And it has benefited from increased service on existing
carriers. Despite that, however, the Herald-Tribune writes passenger traffic still "is down 13.4% so far this year, a loss of more than 100,000 fare-paying travelers."
flew nonstop from SRQ to six cities: Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington
(BWI), Boston, Chicago Midway, Indianapolis and Milwaukee. SRQ has not
been able to replace nonstop service
to Indianapolis and Milwaukee. It also no longer has nonstop flights to
BWI and Chicago Midway, though it does have flights to the respective
nearby airports of Washington National and Chicago O'Hare.
we hated to lose AirTran, and it certainly was a blow to the airport, we
were able to make lemonade out of lemons," SRQ chief Fredrick "Rick"
Piccolo says to the newspaper, noting the new flights on JetBlue and
others. "While we would rather have not gone through it, I think in the
big picture we've fared pretty well."
Despite how the Southwest-AirTran merger turned out, Piccolo tells the Herald-Tribune
he actually thinks a American-US Airways merger would work to SRQ's
advantage. Piccolo thinks the tie-up might spur the "new" American to
add a connection to its Dallas/Fort Worth hub, which would give SRQ a
westward link it has long sought.
"We think that could be positive
for us here," Piccolo says of the AA-US Airways merger. "(B)ut of
course, we thought that when Southwest bought AirTran," he adds.
Even if the merger didn't immediately produce a DFW link, Piccolo tells the Herald-Tribune he thinks it combination would benefit SRQ.
will create a bigger system, so even if we get no new service, people
will have more choices from a bigger network," he predicts.