Southwest Airlines to launch flights to Atlanta

Southwest Airlines planes and employees touched down at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Saturday to prepare for the launch of Atlanta service.The Dallas-based airline flew in four planes to position them for the launch of the first scheduled flights from Hartsfield-Jackson early Sunday morning.Southwest is launching 15 daily flights from Atlanta, with routes to Austin, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Denver and Houston Hobby.Southwest acquired AirTran Airways last year in part to gain entry into Atlanta. AirTran will continue to operate for a couple of years, as Southwest adds service in Atlanta and gradually integrates AirTran flights into its own operations.We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,said James Lyle, an AirTran aircraft inspector, who watched the festivities Saturday.Seeing the first airplane to come in here is great.

Hundreds of Southwest and AirTran employees cheered and held up signs on Concourse C, welcoming Southwest to Atlanta as the first plane came in with more Southwest employees who flew in for the launch of service. Many wore yellow shirts that read Atlanta at Last.I’ve never seen anything like this for a launch,said Chris McGinnis, editor of the Ticket, a newsletter for travelers.Julie Byrne, a traveler who lives in Saginaw, Mich., and was passing through Hartsfield-Jackson Saturday, said she was happy about the launch of service to Atlanta because we fly Southwest all the time, and this opens up a new city.Southwest also held an event with the Georgia Aquarium at the North Terminal baggage claim area Saturday afternoon, noting AirTran will continue its sponsorship with the aquarium.Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Louis Miller said Southwest “is excited about coming in.”

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