MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Southwest Airlines is coming to Memphis. The airline confirms what ABC 24's Cameron Harper reported two weeks ago was likely to happen. This is a case of all the pieces falling into place and ultimately bringing lower fares to the most expensive airport in the country.
Hope for Southwest at Memphis went up when the airline purchased AirTran Airways, which already flies from Memphis to Atlanta.
Southwest expects to get formal approval March 1st from the federal government to begin operating both airlines as one. But it was only in the last few weeks that Southwest executives decided which AirTran cities would survive the merger, and Memphis made the cut.
So how long before the Southwest logo goes up in Memphis? Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the process will start in August, and could take a while.
"Cities converting from AirTran to Southwest is really a function of how quickly we can convert airplanes," he explained. "It's not just the paint job, it's not just new carpet and new seats; there are certain avionics that have to be changed and there's a certification that has to happen and so there's a very measured process essentially changing one fleet over to another."
The first AirTran operation to be converted to Southwest will be Seattle. From there, the airline will work down their list, but didn't specify where Memphis stood on that list. Southwest's decision was based on the AirTran purchase and Delta's cutbacks, creating an opportunity at Memphis International.