Southwest focuses on Atlanta in new campaign

Southwest Airlines is launching a new effort to bolster its image in in Atlanta – and take a swipe at heavyweight Delta Air Lines — now that its merger is complete.

Dallas-based Southwest gained a presence in Atlanta when it acquired AirTran Airways in 2011, then spent three-and-a-half years folding AirTran’s flights into its own, restructuring the route network and shrinking the Atlanta flight schedule in the process.

As of the end of 2014, the AirTran brand has disappeared. Now, as Southwest takes its place as the No. 2 carrier at the Atlanta airport, it is making an all-out effort to court Atlanta travelers.

Southwest will launch a local advertising campaign Monday with new commercials and billboards featuring the cheeky personality of the company with the ticker symbol of LUV. Ads are also going up at Hartsfield-Jackson and at the airport MARTA station.

“Hey Atlanta. You know how we know this is a real relationship? We’re picking you up at the airport,” says one of the ads.

Some of the ads allude to the differences between legacy carrier Delta’s focus on premium customers and Southwest’s low-cost, low-frills identity.

“Atlanta, we don’t care if you’re diamond, platinum or pewter,” a commercial says as Southwest employees mug for the camera. “Heart means you don’t need miles to earn these smiles.”

The campaign “will underscore the commitment we have to win more Atlanta customers,” said Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins. “We provide an alternative.”

Southwest has launched some options aimed at catering to business travelers. But Atlanta-based Delta has said it offers other amenities like a global route network, a first class cabin and airport clubs.