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AirTran's Departure Leaves Empty Slots At Westchester Airport

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of Southwest Airlines, ran its last flight at Westchester County Airport on Sunday and it is not clear which airline, if any, will take over those flights.

“We don’t know yet,” said Patricia Chemka, Westchester’s deputy commissioner of public works and transportation. “The slots that AirTran has at the airport can be traded, sold, et cetera, and we have not heard that anybody is going to take them over.”

AirTran's flights from Westchester airport landed in Atlanta as well as West Palm Beach and Orlando, Fla.

The airport slots are awarded in a lottery, with the next one taking place Oct. 20, Chemka said. Airlines make it known if they want spots, but Chemka had not heard from any airlines as of Aug. 6.

“We like to believe that there will be a demand for other airlines to fill the flights that are available come the October lottery again because they were good flights – they were full flights,” said Chemka, calling the situation unfortunate. JetBlue and Delta could pick up the slack left by AirTran’s departure, she said.

“JetBlue flies to Florida from Westchester now and Delta flies to Atlanta from Westchester. It's not a big jump to think, ‘Well, hopefully JetBlue will take over some of those flights and Delta will take over some of those flights.’ But again it’s a business decision on the parts of those other airlines.”

In the meantime, JetBlue has has added seats to its flights by upgrading from 100 seat-E190 aircraft to 150-seat A320s, said a spokeswoman. Delta Air Lines does not have plans to change its aircraft, a spokeswoman said. She added that they are always reviewing their options.

AirTran had been flying into and departing from the airport since 2007, making up 10 percent of the airport's 100 daily flights. Airport and Westchester County officials were notified of the move Jan. 20.

“This is not a good news story for us,” said Chemka. “We knew Southwest had taken over AirTran. We had no indication that they were going to pull AirTran out of Westchester. The flights are pretty well served. They’re full, and there’s certainly a demand in this market for flights to Atlanta and Florida, so we were surprised.”

The company is pulling out of Westchester because it wants to bring AirTran into the “Southwest network” of flights, which means canceling service at some locations, including Westchester County, said Whitney Eichinger, a spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines.

AirTran serves 300,000 of the 2 million passengers who use the Westchester County Airport each year.

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