I received an amusing invitation this morning from Southwest Airlines. Did I want to visit Milwaukee on Dec. 28? Perhaps, if I did, I might want to bring a winter jacket.
What's happening that day? It's the final day of Air Tran operations. And because this is an airline, there are many festivities planned. I was invited on the second-to-last flight, which will be from Milwaukee to Atlanta. Both airports were Air Tran hubs that have lost some of their clout since Southwest took over. Milwaukee became an Air Tran hub in 2009, just before the Southwest merger. (Sadly, I turned down Southwest's offer for the second-to-final flight.)
The plan is to have a party in Atlanta before the final flight takes off. According to USA Today's Today in the Sky blog, that'll be Air Tran Flight 1 from Atlanta to Tampa.
Why Atlanta to Tampa? As long-time airline watchers know, Air Tran began its life as ValuJet. And when ValuJet began operations in 1993, its first flight was Atlanta to Tampa.
"ValuJet operated its main base in Atlanta, flying mostly within the eastern half of the USA," Ben Mutzabaugh writes in Today in the Sky. "ValuJet merged with AirTran in 1997, a deal that came about a year after ValuJet Flight 592 crashed into the Everglades in 1996. As part of the merger, ValuJet rebranded its operations by assuming the AirTran name."
For those so inclined, Southwest is still selling tickets on the final flight. As of this writing, you can fly one-way from Atlanta to Tampa for $372.