AirTran Announces New Routes

Normally, a route announcement isn't noteworthy. But I figured that in these troubled times, it's such a rare event that it's worth taking a second look. Yesterday, AirTran announced it would start its first flights to both Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) and Columbus (Ohio).

This is something of a strange announcement. The airline has curtailed growth (but not eliminated it). I figured we'd see more growth that connects the dots between existing cities instead of starting new ones altogether, but I guess I was wrong.

The Harrisburg announcement is particularly strange because the airline will only have one, lonely, daily flight down to Orlando. In fact, the residents of Harrisburg will see the plane on the ground for 36 minutes a day and that's it. So can AirTran really justify hiring a station manager and contracting with support personnel just for this one flight? Apparently they think they can. Or at least they don't have a better place to put that airplane during the winter. Flights begin November 20.

Columbus, on the other hand, gets a bigger operation. There will be two daily to Atlanta, one to Ft Myers, and one to Orlando. The times here are wacky. The first flight from Atlanta doesn't leave until 2p in the afternoon, for example. It's almost as if the airline had some extra aircraft time and decided this was the best way to plug those holes. Still, Columbus has seen a decrease in capacity lately, especially with the demise of Skybus, so there probably is a chance of capturing some pent-up demand.

Still, isn't it sad that this is the only route announcement worth talking about right now?