Southwest-AirTran merger could bring Mexico flights to Las Vegas

Change is in the air for many of the nation’s airlines undergoing consolidations, mergers and acquisitions.

If you fly on business or are putting the finishing touches on that summer leisure trip you’ve been thinking about since, oh, the end of last summer, there’s plenty to consider.

US Airways is swallowing up American Airlines but will call itself American. Delta Air Lines and American are modifying their frequent-flier programs.

And Southwest Airlines, which flies the largest percentage of people to and from Las Vegas, is polishing off its acquisition of AirTran.

And that leads to Warrior reader Nick’s question:

I’m writing today to get your take on the Southwest-AirTran merger. Specifically, are the two going to operate identically? I was just looking up a flight to Cabo on their airline to find they require passengers to pay for luggage.

Irritating, isn’t it Nick, to find out that AirTran, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Southwest, didn’t get the memo that “bags fly free” on Southwest?

Here’s what’s happening with Southwest and AirTran, according to airline spokesman Dan Lansdon.

The AirTran brand is being absorbed slowly by Southwest, and by the end of 2014, AirTran as we know it will cease to exist. For now, it’s still two brands operating separately with their own policies.

Right now, there are only 27 AirTran flights a week to and from McCarran International Airport with one daily flight each to Baltimore and Orange County, Calif., and 13 a week to the airline’s Atlanta hub.

Southwest’s AirTran integration is part of a bigger plan for the Dallas-based airline to fly internationally.

By taking over most of AirTran’s route map, Southwest will wind up flying to the Caribbean and to Mexico.

The airline made a big splash earlier this year with its foray to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with flights to and from Atlanta, Baltimore, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In addition to San Juan, Southwest will take on flights to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Aruba.

In Mexico, Southwest will fly eventually to Mexico City and Cancun as well as San Jose Cabo.

The airline is in the process of preparing its website for selling international flights, which includes the complexities of currency conversions, translations and presenting information within the legal requirements of the foreign country.

The big question for us locally is: Will we see nonstop flights from McCarran to Mexico? The answer is a big “dunno.”

Airlines typically play new service announcements close to the vest so that competitors can’t mount a counteroffensive, and Southwest is no different.

“We’re always looking at possibilities down the road, where it makes sense to invest,” Lansdon said. “We’re always looking to see what’s out there and what customers are looking for.”

What we do know is that AirTran and Southwest have nonstops to Orange County and that converting AirTran’s Los Cabos route from John Wayne International Airport there to Southwest is nearly a done deal.

We also know that Southwest is focusing a good portion of its international flying from Houston’s Hobby Airport, where the airline is building a new international terminal that should be ready to go next year.

Would Southwest explore the logistics of flying internationally from McCarran and all that comes with it — arriving at Terminal 3 where Customs and Immigration is while still departing from the C gates and Terminal 1?

It’s too early to tell.

Highway typos

Newspapers aren’t the only ones that have to deal with the embarrassment of the occasional typographical error.

Alert Warrior reader Mike sent me a photograph of a highway work crew correcting a typo with a new sign on the eastbound 215 Beltway suspended from the Bradley Street overpass. Marking the Aliante Parkway exit, the sign listed the exit as “Alienate,” which probably isn’t too flattering to the residents of the neighborhood.

Clark County oversees that section of the highway, and it was a county crew manning the erasers, according to Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman Damon Hodge.

Hodge’s department had its own highway typo to deal with last week as a new sign facing northbound U.S. Highway 95 drivers just south of the Eastern Avenue exit listed the turnoff as Eastern “Blvd.” Maybe not as bad as Alienate, but confusing for the unfamiliar motorist.

Hodge said highway sign typos can cost between $100 to $1 million to fix, depending on how big the error is. It could require a whole new sign. It’s possible a few letters could be modified. If it’s a stand-alone sign on the side of the road and it’s easily accessible, it wouldn’t cost as much to fix as a large sign over the top of several lanes of traffic.

Hodge said a typical graffiti abatement sign fix costs around $2,000.

Questions and comments should be sent to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter @RJroadwarrior.