Photo by M.J. Subiria Arauz
Danie Crawford, administrative assistant at AirTran Airways, points at a Southwest Airlines sign on a gate on Concourse C. Southwest has readied various tugs and baggage carts for its Atlanta debut on Sunday.
Southwest Airlines unveiled its logo at Gate C20 at the world’s busiest airport on Wednesday.
The airline is still prepping for the start of its flight operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday, Feb. 12, but showed off its ticket counter in the North Terminal, and three gates on Concourse C to the media. Contractors could be seen putting bits and pieces together, and finishing touches on several things, for Sunday’s Atlanta debut.
“We are four days from launching through in Atlanta, so we are putting our finishing touches on our facilities — different systems, computers, you name it,” said Brian Davis, station manager for Southwest at Hartsfield-Jackson.
Davis said the airline is making sure that everything functions properly before it begins operating 15 daily, non-stop flights, to five destinations, from Atlanta’s airport. There will be four daily roundtrips to Baltimore, Md., Chicago Ill.; three daily roundtrips to Houston, Texas, and two daily roundtrips to Denver, Colo., and Austin, Texas.
He said the old seats at gates C16, C20 and C22 will be removed and Southwest’s plush leather seats will be installed before the launch. Gate C14 is also being converted, and is “ready to go when we expand and need to grow into it,” he added.
Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Southwest, said the gates already have built-in power stations, where passengers can comfortably sit down and charge devices such as laptops and cell phones –– a perk that AirTran Airways’ gates don’t have.
She said equipment such as tugs and carts are already on site for Sunday’s launch.
“We still have a lot of ways to go, but completely on schedule,” added Davis
He said as the launch date draws closer, Southwest will run an extensive audit, and most importantly, ensure that everything is in order and employees are trained. “Right now, we’ve had 86 employees come in from different parts of the country, all existing Southwest employees,” he said. “So, they’re moving from wherever they lived [to Atlanta].”
On Saturday, Feb. 11, Southwest will bring in four airplanes, ready to begin flights on Sunday.
The station manager said the AirTran integration is a huge investment for Southwest. He said starting operations in Atlanta alone is a large investment within itself. Several million dollars were spent on a variety of areas, such as ground equipment and construction.
Davis said Southwest will ensure that its travelers are well-educated about the benefits of using the airline, and how it functions. “Obviously ... we do things differently,” he said.
Brad Hawkins, also a spokesman for Southwest, said there is only one Southwest ticket counter at the North Terminal, next to the multitude of AirTran ticket counters. Through time, travelers will see the AirTran ticket counters diminish as Southwest takes over. “Eventually [AirTran] will be the small counter,” he said.
Elizabeth Dunlap, a flight attendant for AirTran Airways, said she is excited she will be employed by Southwest, because of its dedication and respect to its employees.
“We plan, thoroughly, to give Delta [Air Lines] a run for their money in customer service and pricing,” she added with a smirk. “Delta will have to step it up a little bit.”