The question has been asked for years: When is Southwest coming to the Bluff City? Now there's hope on the horizon for frugal travelers as the Dallas-based airline says it's buying AirTran, an airline already flying out of Memphis.
"Southwest Airlines and AirTran are joining forces to spread low fares farther," said AirTran CEO, Robert Fornaro.
Following a public announcement Monday morning from Southwest and AirTran's CEO's, the news spread quickly from Memphis tourism officials to travel agents.
"If it adds flights, it could affect a lot of different routes as far as pricing is concerned," said Kevin Kane, the President and CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"I'm excited. Competition is great in the airline world," said Vicki Rush with A&I Travel.
Right now AirTran runs 4 flights a day out of Memphis' A terminal to it's hub in Atlanta. The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority is betting once the deal is finalized, Southwest will increase service, and begin to offer non-stop flights.
"It would certainly be our goal once Southwest establishes operations here to discuss with them possibilities for service expansion in the future," said Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Office, Scott Brockman.
Brockman said as a primary hub, about 86 percent of the people flying in and out of Memphis these days, fly Delta.
"I would assume Delta would compete very aggressively with Southwest which just benefits the travelers from the standpoint of price, routes and availability."
Southwest still has some regulatory hurdles to overcome before taking over the thirty-seven cities AirTran serves that it does not. Southwest says that could take up to 9 months, but hopes to combine carriers by 2012.