Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Flying on Air Tran Airways


This past Sunday I flew from Sarasota to New Orleans (via Atlanta) to attend a New Orleans Zephyrs (Class AAA) minor league baseball game. The cheapest option available was to fly from Sarasota to New Orleans on Air Tran Airways (this was even cheaper than taking the Southwest nonstop from Tampa to New Orleans). Being retired I went for the cheapest alternative and I was not disappointed.

Air Tran flies a fleet of two-engine Boeing 717 (pictured above) and Boeing 737-800 series aircraft. Air Tran's route system is decidedly eastern but they provide service to some of the larger cities on the west coast (and of course to Las Vegas). For the tropical traveler, they have recently begun service to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Montego Bay Jamaica, and to Cancun.

Air Tran's genesis came about when ValuJet Airlines flight 592 augured its way into the Everglades just after take off from Miami on May 11, 1996. The crash occurred because some cargo that shouldn't have been on the plane was on the plane and the cargo exploded not long after take off. ValuJet's name was pretty well trashed because of the circumstances leading up to the crash and the traveling public flocked away from ValuJet after that day. Rather than fold the airline, its management simply changed the name of ValuJet to Air Tran and its been in the air ever since.

My first segment Sunday morning lifted off full from Sarasota at 11:05 a.m, about 10 minutes early. I had upgraded to First Class for $39 dollars. We arrived in Atlanta 10 minutes early where I had a 2 1/2 hour lay over until my outbound flight at 3:20 eastern time. Luckily when I stepped from the plane in Atlanta a flight to New Orleans was boarding at the next gate. Had we not gotten in early this connection would not have been possible. There was room available in First on this earlier flight and away I went, having spent about 7 minutes in the Atlanta airport. We arrived New Orleans early.

Yesterday I returned from New Orleans via Atlanta to Sarasota. Just like on Sunday the flights were full, they left the gates early, the planes arrived early and everything went smoothly. I thought I had flown Air Tran before but realized in flight last evening that I had been on ValuJet before it became Air Tran. Thus, Air Tran was a life airline - the 201st commercial airline I have flown.

Although the four segment flight on Air Tran is a very small sample size, I have to say I was impressed by it and will most certainly fly the airline again. Not only was the fare cheap, and the flights early, but the people working for Air Tran seemed to actually be happy and seemed to actually enjoy having you on their plane. Fly on Delta, United or American airlines a few times and you'll understand my example.

If you haven't been on Air Tran I'd suggest you give them a try. If your experience is like mine was this weekend you'll likely not be disappointed.

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