The email arrived in my inbox at about 7:05 a.m. The subject line read: AirTran Airways agrees to Acquisition by Southwest Airlines. Long pause. Re-read headline. Catch my breath. Call my boss.
That was the early sequence of events on Monday, September 27, 2010. I don't think I will ever forget that morning; that feeling. You see, we've spent the last 14 years in the trenches with AirTran. Together, we built an amazing partnership, amazing airline service for our community, and an amazing bond. We took risks together. Mostly we succeeded together but occasionally we learned a lesson together. Through it all, they never stopped believing in us.
As I was processing, recalibrating and focusing on the future of CAK, I quickly thought of Kent Keith's, "The Paradoxical Commandments." Commandment #8 reads:
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
CAK and AirTran fought hard. We are kindred warrior spirits, to take a bit from Gary Kelly's speech that morning announcing the acquisition.
I have no regrets about what we've built, nor do I regret that this acquisition will likely happen. We now have an amazing story to share with Southwest and other air carriers because AirTran Airways didn't pigeon hole CAK. I am so grateful for that.
So, as we look to the future, I feel hopeful. Southwest is the most respected air carrier in the US and I dare say the world. They have posted 37 years of profitability. That is simply amazing. They have a great culture, great people and they serve great cities. We hope they like what they see here too.
For now and until the deal closes, nothing changes (at least six months and probably longer). Same great flights. Same great fares. I get to work with the AirTran team for a bit longer, and for that too, I am grateful. They say that all great things come to an end…and I guess that is true in one way or another. But my life has been enriched by the people at AirTran Airways. Namaste, AirTran. Namaste.