USA TODAY - Is the "Southwest Effect" no more?
It was almost exactly one year ago that Southwest debuted its first Atlanta flights. The airline celebrated its arrival there with balloons at the gates and a metro-wide media blitz. All that came while analysts predicted Southwest's arrival would send fares plummeting.
The phenomenon had so pronounced that it earned its "Southwest Effect" label in a 1993 federal report looking at the effect of low-cost carriers on airfares.
FULL STORY: 'Southwest Effect' muted in carrier's first year in Atlanta (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
However, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Atlanta travelers haven't seen the dramatic drop in fares Southwest has tended to bring to other cities. Some fares are even up.
Journal-Constitution reporter Kelly Yamanouchi writes a year after its arrival, "Southwest planes are few and far between at Hartsfield-Jackson, where they carry about 2% of passengers."
Southwest is, of course, merging with AirTran - which is Atlanta's No. 2 carrier and operates its largest hub there. Still, Southwest's assimilation of AirTran has moved ploddingly since it purchased its rival in 2011. It's now expected to take at least until 2015 until AirTran is fully integreated into Southwest.
And, in the meantime, Southwest has actually reduced its combined presence in with AirTran in Atlanta.
The Journal-Constitution Yamanouchi writes":
Since the Southwest buyout AirTran has cut some flights and routes in Atlanta. Southwest now has 29 daily departures from Atlanta, while AirTran maintains 159, for a total of 188. When the buyout was announced in late 2010, AirTran had about 220 flights.
There also has not been the steep drop in fares that many had expected. But, overall fares in Atlanta have remained largely flat during a period that they've slowly crept up in most other U.S. markets -- perhaps a sign that Southwest has exerted at least some downward pressure on fares.
However, others industry observers note that since AirTran already had such a significant presence prior to Southwest's arrival, there wasn't much additional room for fares to go lower -- with or without Southwest.
Elsewhere, Yamanouchi writes in her story that Southwest's "arrival has produced one benefit - analysts say it has forced Delta Air Lines to up its game."
Delta, by far the top carrier in Atlanta, has improved its on-time performance ratings and has moved to upgrade its in-flight offerings.
"I think Delta has been more attentive" to Atlanta customers, airline consultant Robert W. Mann tells the Journal-Constitution.