It's been a long time coming. Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways officially merged in May 2011, but their flight options and reservations have remained separate -- until now. Consumers soon will be able to go to either airline and choose from the full list of itineraries operated by Southwest and AirTran.
The airline plans to roll out integrated itineraries and ticketing to 39 cities (it isn't saying which ones) on Feb. 25 and to connect the entire network in April, according to a statement. For customers, that means being able to add legs of AirTran travel to a Southwest flight and vice versa, and being able to book an all-AirTran itinerary on Southwest.
For those enrolled in frequent-flier programs, the airline recommends being members of both Rapid Rewards on Southwest and A+ Rewards on AirTran until they become one. That allows you to be able to trade credits between the two systems. Note that itineraries booked on Southwest -- even if there's an AirTran leg of travel to, say, the Caribbean or Mexico-- will be credited to Southwest's loyalty program.
Eventually AirTran will be just a memory, going the way of the Continental name in its merger with United Airlines in 2010. AirTran's fleet of Boeing 737s will be repainted in Southwest colors and fly under the Southwest name by the end of 2014. Southwest launched its budget airline 42 years ago and remains based in Dallas.