According to this thread on FlyerTalk, Southwest Airlines has started to display bookable AirTran flights on its own website. The first AirTran city pairs offered on Southwest.com are Atlanta <-> Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta <-> Fort Myers. A sample screenshot of the newly available flights is below.

These flights are still bookable on AirTran’s website. The prices for economy and business appear to be the same, though no equivalent to “Anytime” economy fares is offered by AirTran.

Why should I book AirTran flights on Southwest’s website?

You should book this flight through Southwest if you are flying in economy and checking a bag. Southwest allows two free checked bags. AirTran, on the other hand, charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second.

Why should I book AirTran flights on AirTran’s website?

AirTran offers the ability to select your seat. You pay for this privilege, though. The cheapest seats are $6 per segment. If you decline to pay, you can select your seat when checking in, no earlier than 24 hours before the flight.

If you are an AirTran elite, the seat selection fee is waived. You also receive free checked bags and the possibility of complimentary first class upgrades at the gate. It definitely makes sense to book with AirTran directly in this case.

What about earning? Is it better to earn A+ credits or Southwest Rapid Rewards points?

That depends on the price of the flights and how much you fly AirTran. Scott wrote a good post on How to Exploit the Southwest-AirTran Merger. He also detailed the conversion ratios between Rapid Rewards points, Rapid Rewards credits, and A+ credits. The exchange ratios are below:

  • 1,200 Rapid Rewards points converts to 1 A+ credit
  • 1 Rapid Rewards credit to 1 A+ credit
  • 1 Southwest Standard Award (two oneways) to 16 A+ credits
  • 1 A+ credit converts to 1 Rapid Rewards credit
  • 16 A+ credits can be used to fly two oneways on Airtran, and 16 Rapid Rewards credits can be used to fly two oneways on Southwest.

Some people are visual learners, so Southwest has a handy website to help explain all the possible conversions. They also produced a chart to show the available transfers.

If you are still reeling from all of this, here is a basic explanation. Rapid Rewards points are a fixed value point system. The number of points needed to book an award ticket is dictated by the price of the fare.

19,200 Rapid Rewards points are worth approximately $324 (1.69 cents each according to the Mile Value Calculator). The same 19,200 Rapid Rewards points convert into 16 A+ credits or 16 Rapid Rewards credits, which are enough for a roundtrip award ticket. 1,200 points = 1 credit.

If you can find an award ticket that costs more than approximately $324 cash, it makes sense to convert 19,200 Rapid Rewards points into credits for a standard AirTran or Southwest award. Just be sure to verify that there is standard award space on your desired flights before making the conversion.

So what’s the final call?

You must decide between Rapid Rewards points and credits. A standard roundtrip flight will earn 2 A+ credits, but the Rapid Rewards points you could earn vary depending on flight prices.

For example, if your roundtrip ticket earns 2,000 Rapid Rewards points versus 2 A+ credits for each segment, AirTran appears to be the site to book with. 2,400 Rapid Rewards points converts to 2 A+ credits. However, I don’t think you should always look at it from this standpoint.

More than anything, I value the flexibility of Rapid Rewards points over A+ credits. Unless you fly AirTran regularly, it might be hard to accumulate the 16 credits required for an award ticket.

Accumulating Rapid Rewards points allows you to book Southwest award flights when needed. You can also convert 19,200 points into 16 credits if the award you want costs more than approximately $324 out of pocket and there is standard award space available.

Recap

A few AirTran flights are now bookable on Southwest.com. I’m sure more will be added in the coming weeks as both carriers are inching (very slowly) towards completing their merger.

If you don’t hold elite status with AirTran, I would book any AirTran flights on Southwest’s website that I could. Checked bags are free and you earn Rapid Rewards points which can be used on Southwest flights. Rapid Rewards points also convert into A+ or Rapid Rewards credits, which could make sense if you are booking an award flight that costs more than $324.

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