Southwest cutting more routes in Atlanta

Southwest Airlines is eliminating AirTran routes between Atlanta and Memphis, Pensacola and Buffalo this fall as it transforms AirTran’s hub into a Southwest operation.

At the same time, Dallas-based Southwest is adding flights from Atlanta to Hartford and Oklahoma City. Also as part of the new flight schedule starting Nov. 3, Atlanta-San Juan, Puerto Rico service will be converted from AirTran to Southwest.

Southwest, which bought Orlando-based AirTran and its Atlanta hub in 2011, started its own Atlanta flights last year and has been gradually expanding them as it absorbs AirTran operations and planes. AirTran operates about 140 daily flights from Atlanta, while Southwest has about 30.

“In Atlanta, we’re essentially de-hubbing AirTran’s model and moving to the Southwest point-to-point style operation,” said Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly in a message to employees. “Here in the November flight schedule is the first time you can really see that shift taking place.”

Southwest says its style of operation is more efficient. As part of the transition, the company announced last month that about 300 employees will be cut from the AirTran operation at Hartsfield-Jackson, with the option to relocate to another Southwest location.

Across the country, Southwest plans to more rapidly shift flights from AirTran to Southwest, now that the two carriers’ flight schedules are linked and AirTran locations in other airports have been converted to Southwest. By 2015, the AirTran name will disappear.

The service cuts come on top of about 14 AirTran routes from Atlanta already discontinued since the Southwest acquisition, including Atlantic City, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Sarasota, Wichita and Washington Dulles. Meanwhile, Southwest has already launched service from Atlanta to Austin, Norfolk/Virginia Beach and Louisville.